People, Startups

Vivek Ramaswamy is diving into RNA, launching a new biotech with Arbutus and a team of vets

After buying up a big chunk of Arbutus’ $ABUS shares, Roivant CEO Vivek Ramaswamy has created a new joint venture startup that brings some top industry veterans together with a mix of RNA-related technologies to launch a new company that will now build up a pipeline.

Paris Panayiotopoulos

In a twist for Ramaswamy, his new venture — Genevant Sciences — doesn’t involve in-licensing a late-stage therapy with an eye towards a quick flip to pivotal data. This time he’s taking tech from Arbutus and building a pipeline from scratch. But he still plans to move fast into a field of deeply experienced rivals.

He has also put together an experienced team for Genevant:

  • Paris Panayiotopoulos, most recently the CEO of Ariad until Takeda bought them out, is executive chairman.
  • Bo Rode Hansen, global head of RNA therapeutics at Roche, is stepping in as CSO.
  • Peter Lutwyche, who led the development of the Arbutus delivery platforms, will join as Chief Technology Officer, and he’ll be joined by a group of investigators coming over from Arbutus as they fill out the startup roster.

They’ll be working on a range of RNA-based therapeutics backed by Arbutus’ proprietary lipid nanoparticle and ligand conjugate delivery technologies in what’s described as a mix of RNAi, messenger RNA and gene editing — three of the hottest technologies now finding their way forward in the clinic.

Roivant is chipping in $37.5 million in seed capital for Genevant, with a commitment to keep funding the group to get 5 to 10 product candidates into the clinic by 2020.

The alliance follows Ramaswamy’s move last fall to invest $116.4 million in Arbutus, a Canadian biotech with a big focus on hepatitis B. Now this new JV will turn to an R&D operation in Canada, with a base in Cambridge, MA and an operations group in Basel.

This is a critical stage for Ramaswamy. The utter failure of Axovant to make a dent in Alzheimer’s has raised serious questions about his judgment in selecting drugs for his startups. On the other hand, he’s also raised billions to get more companies launched, and he has exhibited considerable skill in financial engineering, even if his drug development savvy is in question.

Image: Vivek Ramaswamy Getty

The best place to read Endpoints News? In your inbox.

Comprehensive daily news report for those who discover, develop, and market drugs. Join 44,000+ biopharma pros who read Endpoints News by email every day.

Free Subscription

Sr. Manager, Regulatory Affairs, CMC
CytomX Therapeutics San Francisco, CA
Marketing Associate - Demand Generation
Catalytic Data Science Charleston, SC
Associate Principal, Life Sciences Partnerships
Flatiron Health New York City or San Francisco

Visit Endpoints Careers ->