Versant-backed Chinook gets a $65M launch round for its discovery quest in a resurgent kidney field
Versant is once again stepping off the beaten track in biotech to see if they can blaze a trail of their own in a field that has looked too thorny to many investors for years.
The venture group and their partners at Apple Tree are bringing their latest creation out of stealth mode today. Born in Versant’s Inception Sciences’ Chinook Therapeutics is betting that its preclinical take on kidney disease can get an early lead among the companies starting up in the field.
Headed by Eric Dobmeier, who left his post as COO of Seattle Genetics to take up the life of a biotech entrepreneur, Chinook is pursuing a pipeline of preclinical programs born in the belief that a better understanding of biology, new tech tools and a supportive FDA offering accelerated pathways is all a new recipe for success in the pursuit of precision medicines focused on unique patient populations.
We don’t know what these drugs are, or specifically what they are targeting, yet. But Versant and the Chinook team believe they will be in the clinic in 2021 when it can say a lot more.
For now, they’re happy to stay focused on a resurgent field littered with the corpses of failed drugs.
“It reminds me of NASH and liver disease 4-plus years ago,” says Versant managing director Jerel Davis. Now pharma has begun setting up its own groups to tackle the field, and he wants in on the ground floor.
Dobmeier has a $65 million A round and a team of 25 to lead forward. You may recall that Dobmeier’s first biotech gig out of Seattle Genetics was with a company called Silverback. But they experienced an early setback, says the biotech exec, and he exited the company — joining Chinook back in April.
Versant and Apple Tree were joined by Samsara BioCapital on the launch round.
The Versant team has made a habit of trying to get an early jump on emerging R&D fields. That strategy, which involves creating discovery teams in some off-beat places like Vancouver, included their regenerative stem cell play BlueRock, which Bayer just bought out at a unicorn valuation.
They’re following in the footsteps of companies like Goldfinch, a Third Rock startup in the class of 2016 that recently teamed with Gilead on its approach to kidney disease. That heavily back-ended deal helped inspire Versant to go deeper. Another company in the field is Reata, which was once allied with AbbVie — ahead of a clinical implosion that they’ve been working to recover from.