Laurie Glimcher and Ansbert Gadicke (Justin Knight, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute)

Ty­ing ba­sic sci­ence to spin­outs, Dana-Far­ber de­buts sis­ter funds to­tal­ing $126M with MPM Cap­i­tal

As one of the most pres­ti­gious can­cer in­sti­tutes in the US, Dana-Far­ber has en­joyed con­sid­er­able sup­port for its en­tre­pre­neur­ial pur­suits, spin­ning out about 30 com­pa­nies in the past 12 years.

Bar­rett Rollins

“Now where we’ve al­ways strug­gled — where every can­cer cen­ter strug­gled — is sup­port of ba­sic sci­ence,” Bar­rett Rollins, chief sci­en­tif­ic of­fi­cer emer­i­tus, told End­points News.

And then two of its trustees had an idea. What if they tied phil­an­thropy to in­vest­ment in Dana-Far­ber star­tups, re­quir­ing a do­na­tion to ba­sic sci­ence as a con­di­tion for ac­cess­ing its bright­est biotech ven­ture ideas?

Eight years of in­vestor-vet­ting and mod­el-re­fin­ing lat­er, it’s raised $26 mil­lion for the phil­an­thropic fund and set­tled on a gen­er­al part­ner to man­age the “sis­ter” ven­ture fund: MPM Cap­i­tal.

The $100 mil­lion On­col­o­gy In­no­va­tion Fund will com­ple­ment the $1 bil­lion MPM has re­served for on­col­o­gy in­vest­ing, Ans­bert Gadicke, co-founder and man­ag­ing di­rec­tor, said. It in­cludes a $400 mil­lion ven­ture cap­i­tal fund and $700 mil­lion crossover fund — with on­col­o­gy sit­ting as the num­ber 1 fo­cus at the firm.

Around half of the fund will go to­ward new spin­outs from Dana-Far­ber that MPM will help launch, he added. All told, he ex­pects to back 15 star­tups with this fund, some of which could be fledg­lings from oth­er aca­d­e­m­ic in­sti­tu­tions or start­ed by fel­low VCs. Six in­vest­ments are al­ready un­der­way.

“We like to have that lev­el of di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion but what still al­lows us to be con­cen­trat­ed and make mean­ing­ful in­vest­ments in each com­pa­ny,” Gadicke said.

MPM has full con­trol over the fund, while Dana-Far­ber — led by Lau­rie Glim­ch­er — is whol­ly re­spon­si­ble for how to spend their phil­an­thropic mon­ey.

Much re­mains to be ex­plored in both ge­net­ic con­trol of can­cer and ear­ly de­tec­tion/pre­ven­tion work, ac­cord­ing to Rollins. And then there’s the re­lent­less tide of im­muno-on­col­o­gy — a field that he said Dana-Far­ber pi­o­neered 40 years ago. In fact, the in­sti­tute has pre­vi­ous­ly worked with MPM to pour Ar­lene Sharpe, Gor­don Free­man and Vi­jay Kuchroo’s find­ings in­to CoS­tim Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, lat­er ac­quired by No­var­tis. Tizona Ther­a­peu­tics, the Ab­b­Vie-part­nered biotech that Gadicke de­scribed as the star of the port­fo­lio, is al­so fo­cused on im­munother­a­py.

“The rea­son why that’s such a great ex­am­ple is be­cause the dis­cov­ery of PD-L1 and PD-1 ef­fect by Gor­don were the re­sult of this undi­rect­ed cu­rios­i­ty-dri­ven ba­sic sci­ence which is the tar­get of the phil­an­thropic fund,” Rollins said.

The plan is to of­fer $1 mil­lion grants to two to four such projects each year over the next four to five years, hire a new ju­nior fac­ul­ty mem­ber and pur­chase some ex­pen­sive equip­ment with the rest of the fund.

Bob Nelsen at the Milken Institute Global Conference on April 29, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images)

ARCH chief Bob Nelsen has $1.5B to prove 2 sim­ple points: ‘We’re in the most in­no­v­a­tive time ever’ and in­vestors are stay­ing

ARCH co-founder and managing director Bob Nelsen has a well known yen for the home run swing, betting big on potentially transformative meds and tech and the biotech teams he helps bring together. He thrives and bleeds on the cutting edge. And now Nelsen and the ARCH group have debuted 2 big funds to prove that this is the time for the best of biotech to shine — deadly pandemic be damned.

Two new funds, ARCH Venture Fund X and ARCH Venture Fund X Overage, gathered a combined $1.46 billion. And that’s a record. ARCH Venture Fund IX and ARCH Venture Fund IX Overage closed in 2016 with a combined $1.1 billion. ARCH Venture Fund VIII and ARCH Venture Fund VIII Overage closed in 2014 with a combined $560 million.

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UP­DAT­ED: A small, ob­scure biotech just won big with their IPO. In this mar­ket. Are you kid­ding me?

How could a small, largely unknown biotech that emerged from stealth mode just months ago with early-stage cancer programs jump onto Wall Street in the middle of a Category 6 financial hurricane and sail through with a $165 million IPO?

And what does that mean for the rest of the industry waiting to see just how much damage global lockdowns will wreak on clinical development?

The biotech is a company called Zentalis. The crew there nabbed an $85 million crossover round late last year — notably waiting 5 years before waving the numbers around to attract attention, according to my read of a FierceBiotech story. Perceptive joined in, but the syndicate was not in general the kind of marquee affair that gets tongues wagging.

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Aaron Royston, venBio

In­vest­ing in the time of coro­n­avirus: the good, the bad and the hope­ful, as biotech VC firms close funds worth $3B

Apart from disrupting biopharma R&D and regulatory timelines, the coronavirus pandemic has inevitably ravaged financial markets and eroded investor risk appetite. Investing in the time of coronavirus feels reckless, but if biotech venture funds are any indication, the time is ripe.

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Drug dis­cov­ery in the age of coro­n­avirus

Developing new drugs is incredibly hard. That’s why, despite superhuman efforts from the industry, we’re still looking at 12-18 months minimum before we can realistically hope for a vaccine for Covid-19, and probably months before there’s a proven viable drug treatment.

But our increasing ability to begin to industrialize the drug discovery and development process through an engineering approach means that we have more hope for speeding up this process than ever before — and not just to defeat coronavirus, but to benefit the development of all new medicines in the future.

UP­DAT­ED: Have a new drug that promis­es to fight Covid-19? The FDA promis­es fast ac­tion but some de­vel­op­ers aren't hap­py

After providing an emergency approval to use malaria drugs against coronavirus with little actual evidence of their efficacy or safety in that setting, the FDA has already proven that it has set aside the gold standard when it comes to the pandemic. And now regulators have spelled out a new approach to speeding development that promises immediate responses in no uncertain terms — promising a program offering the ultimate high-speed pathway to Covid-19 drug approvals.

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Lil­ly Asia Ven­tures co-leads $100M+ round for Chi­nese biotech and its late-stage lu­pus drug

Can a Chinese biotech deliver the first new lupus drug in decades? A high-profile group of VCs are betting on it.

Lilly Asia Ventures and Lake Bleu Capital are the co-headliners for RemeGen’s latest raise, which brought in more than $100 million. Hudson Bay Capital and Vivo Capital — which, like LAV, also invested in a pre-IPO round for Legend Biotech unveiled today — chimed in, as did Janchor Partners and OrbiMed.

GSK's asth­ma bi­o­log­ic Nu­cala is one step clos­er to ap­proval in key chron­ic rhi­nos­i­nusi­tis pop­u­la­tion

Months after GSK’s Nucala cleared in a pivotal rare blood disorder study, the asthma biologic has scored in a late-stage trial in chronic rhinosinusitis patients with nasal polyps.

The British drugmaker on Friday disclosed data from the SYNAPSE study, which tested Nucala (also known as mepolizumab) against a placebo on top of standard-of-care in more than 400 patients, all of whom had a history of previous surgery (approximately one in three had ≥3 surgeries) and required surgery due to severe symptoms and bigger polyps.

Servi­er bags an an­ti­body spe­cial­ist in its lat­est on­col­o­gy M&A deal with plans to add the plat­form tech

Whatever Servier learned about Symphogen during their 2-year development alliance must have significantly whetted their appetite for an acquisition.

Paris-based Servier announced Friday that it has struck a deal to buy out the antibody expert. The acquisition comes 2 years after Servier acquired Shire’s cancer business for $2.4 billion. They’ve been working with Symphogen on a slate of programs, including some favs – PD-1, LAG3 and TIM3 — where they are looking to differentiate themselves from the more prominent drugs in these niches.

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GSK vac­cine chief heads for AIDS vac­cine ini­tia­tive; Pfiz­er en­lists Sue Desmond-Hell­mann to its board of di­rec­tors

→ Rip Ballou, who until very recently led vaccine research and development at GlaxoSmithKline, is joining the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) to lead its USAID-funded ADVANCE program. The program uses a network of researchers and institutions in Africa to help develop a vaccine for HIV. Ballou had worked at GSK since 2010 and has led global vaccine R&D since 2015. Prior to that he held posts at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a different post at GSK, Medimmune, and Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.  IAVI is led by Mark Feinberg, the former CSO of Merck Vaccines.