The Carlyle Group shells out $435M for controlling stake in vaccine, gene therapy services company
The Carlyle Group has put a target on life sciences in recent years, looking for opportunities to take controlling stakes in promising firms. After shelling out nearly half-a-billion dollars last year on a one-fifth stake in an Indian CDMO, the DC investors have their eyes set on a company specializing in vaccine and gene therapy services.
Carlyle shelled out $435 million to acquire more than 90% of Unchained Labs, a six-year-old California-based firm, from Danish asset manager Novo Holdings and VC firms TPG Biotech and Canaan Partners.
The company has 170 employees, and expects to generate $75 million in revenue this year, according to a release. In October, Unchained launched its gene therapy tool Stunner, a platform designed to give researchers a speedy readout on AAV capsid concentration and viability. In January, it launched a mRNA vaccine application on Stunner that measures the size distribution of lipid nanoparticles and the total amount of mRNA at the same time.
In a press release, CEO Tim Harkness said:
The Unchained team has solved a ton of problems for researchers over the past few years, but we are just beginning to scratch the surface of the biologics and gene therapy opportunity. I am thrilled to welcome Carlyle as our new partner! They have the team, the vision, the conviction, the experience, and the capital to help us accelerate organic and inorganic growth and realize our full potential. I have never been more optimistic about our future and I am truly excited about joining Carlyle for the next part of our journey.
Harkness did not respond to an interview request by press time.
The company has grown by more than 30% year over year, according to Carlyle managing director Robert Schmidt, and the investment was made out of the $18.5 billion Carlyle Partners VII fund.
At the start of April, Unchained announced another gene therapy and vaccine application dubbed Big Tuna, that focuses on the buffer exchange, concentration and clean-up of AAVs and lipid nanoparticles.
Carlyle bought 20% of CDMO Piramal back in the summer of 2020, in a deal that brought $490 million in cash, and acquired a majority stake in health research network TriNetX. The company is leaning on Unchained’s R&D and digitization, and hinted at expansion, as Schmidt said that they hope to accelerate the company’s “aggressive growth plans.”