Drug Development

Versant’s global biotech team is reloading with $350M-plus fund

Brad Bolzon

Brad Bolzon

After racking up dozens of biotech investments on both sides of the Atlantic over the past 17 years, the prolific and influential team at Versant Ventures is aiming at stepping up with a new, $350 million-plus fund that will push past the $2 billion mark on the money it manages.

Brad Bolzon, Jerel Davis and the rest of the managing partners have signed up to assemble the next fund, Versant Venture Capital VI, according to a filing with the SEC.

Jerel Davis

Jerel Davis

The main office for Versant is in the San Francisco hub, but Versant doesn’t get held down by geography. These venture investors are globe trotters when it comes to tracking down and backing upstart drug developers.

There’s a busy team of partners based in Basel and a global perspective that recently led to a $41.4 million round for the oncolytic viral biotech Turnstone in Canada.

Back in May Versant partner Guido Magni helped arrange a €12 million round for Nouscom in Basel for their work on cancer vaccines. The VC co-led a €46 million round for Aprea — another cancer-focused biotech — in Sweden. And the US-based Gritstone Oncology (cancer again, this time focused on neoantigens) launched with a $102 million mega-round co-led by Versant last fall.

Carlo Rizzuto was dispatched to New York last spring to head up its discovery work, building up a portfolio of startups while Luca Santarelli was recruited from Roche, where he worked as head of neurosciences, to work in Europe.

Guido Magni

Guido Magni

I wouldn’t expect Versant to be held back to that $350 million mark set for the fund in the SEC filing. Versant pegged its last fund, unveiled at the end of 2014, at $250 million and wound up with $305 million. And it’s become a mark of pride with the VC crowd to tot up new biotech funds that go well past the initial goal.

Versant’s new fund will likely go live as the biotech IPO window remains a balky obstacle to most startups. After the 2012-2015 wave passed, offerings started to dry up as generalist investors largely avoided the field. But Versant has also had a string of exits that should keep its institutional investors coming back for more.


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