Gerry Brunk (Lumira)

What will Lu­mi­ra Ven­tures do with $220M? Stay out of the com­fort zone and off the beat­en biotech path

Lu­mi­ra Ven­tures closed its largest fund on Mon­day, rak­ing in $220 mil­lion to pump in­to the life sci­ences — but in­stead of tar­get­ing biotech hubs like San Fran­cis­co and Boston, the com­pa­ny is rolling the dice on “un­der­served ge­o­gra­phies” in the US and Cana­da.

“We find of­ten­times com­pa­nies lo­cat­ed in places like Mon­tre­al, or Fort Laud­erdale, FL, or Kansas City or Phoenix, AZ just have more cap­i­tal ef­fi­cien­cy and bet­ter val­u­a­tions, with­out hav­ing to com­pro­mise any­thing at all in the qual­i­ty of the in­no­va­tion and the man­age­ment tal­ent,” co-founder and man­ag­ing part­ner Ger­ry Brunk told End­points News. 

The lat­est fund — dubbed Lu­mi­ra Ven­tures IV — is 55% larg­er than the com­pa­ny’s last raise and will al­low the team to bring on 15 to 20 new port­fo­lio com­pa­nies, Brunk said. Lu­mi­ra has 30 com­pa­nies in its cur­rent port­fo­lio, in­clud­ing gene ther­a­py play­er Xy­lo­Cor Ther­a­peu­tics (which re­cent­ly raised a $22.6 mil­lion Se­ries A ex­ten­sion), and ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals-fo­cused Fu­sion Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals (which last month en­tered a lease agree­ment with Hamil­ton, On­tario-based Mc­Mas­ter Uni­ver­si­ty for a 27,000-square-foot man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ty).

“We’re re­al­ly bal­anced by stage,” Brunk said. “We will in­vest in com­pa­ny cre­ation ac­tiv­i­ties and seed stage in­vest­ing, all the way through growth eq­ui­ty, pri­vate trans­ac­tions as well as PIPE in­vest­ments in pub­lic com­pa­nies.”

In more than two decades, the firm has in­vest­ed over $1 bil­lion in 100-plus com­pa­nies, ac­cord­ing to the web­site. And it isn’t afraid to go bold. Back in 2018, the team helped launch Medexus Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, which was cre­at­ed by merg­ing one pub­lic and two pri­vate com­pa­nies: Pe­di­apharm, Medexus, and Medac Phar­ma, re­spec­tive­ly.

“We’re a lit­tle unique rel­a­tive to some ven­ture firms in that we’ve got a com­fort lev­el do­ing very cre­ative spe­cial sit­u­a­tion types of op­por­tu­ni­ties,” Brunk said.

While this marks Lu­mi­ra’s fourth flag­ship fund, the team has al­so man­aged sev­er­al spe­cial pur­pose funds, in­clud­ing a new $35 mil­lion strate­gic fund in part­ner­ship with an phar­ma com­pa­ny, which will be an­nounced lat­er this week. With roots in Cana­da, the firm says its mis­sion is to “skate where the puck is go­ing to be,” tar­get­ing com­pa­nies ad­dress­ing un­met needs in cost-ef­fi­cient ways.

In­vestors in Lu­mi­ra Ven­tures IV in­clude Kens­ing­ton Cap­i­tal Part­ners, Fonds de Sol­i­dar­ité FTQ, North­leaf Cap­i­tal Part­ners, Caisse de dépôt et place­ment du Québec, the Busi­ness De­vel­op­ment Bank of Cana­da, Teralys Cap­i­tal, the On­tario Cap­i­tal Growth Cor­po­ra­tion, Roy­al Bank of Cana­da, In­vestisse­ment Québec, Fon­dac­tion, Alexan­dria Ven­ture In­vest­ments, An­geli­ni Phar­ma, Chi­na Grand Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal and Health­care Hold­ings, Vanci­ty, and Amana Glob­al Part­ners.

“We’ve seen a num­ber of our peers suc­cess­ful­ly raise new funds over the past year,” Brunk said. “Un­for­tu­nate­ly, it took a glob­al health care cri­sis to el­e­vate the val­ue of the in­dus­try, I think, to a lot of folks. But we feel very priv­i­leged to have the new cap­i­tal to back that next set of en­tre­pre­neurs.”

Why it Works: Man­u­fac­tur­ing a Vac­cine in a Mul­ti-Prod­uct Fa­cil­i­ty.

COVID-19 launched the pharmaceutical industry to the frontline in the battle against the fast-spreading global pandemic. The goal: distribute a safe, effective vaccine as quickly as possible. Major players in the vaccine market needed to partner with contract development and manufacturing organizations (CDMOs) to achieve the goal of mass vaccine quantities under expedited timelines. With CDMOs stepping up to play a critical role in the vaccine manufacturing process, multi-product CDMO facilities took the spotlight. Partnerships quickly formed as the race to save lives and fight a pandemic was on.

Merck CEO Rob Davis

Mer­ck emerges as lead bid­der in po­ten­tial Ac­celeron buy­out with deal pos­si­ble this week — re­port

With rumors swirling about a potential buyout of biotech Acceleron and its lead PAH drug sotatercept, market watchers have been keeping close tabs on industry movers and shakers due up for an expensive bolt-on. According to a new report, it appears Merck may be the one.

Merck is in “advanced talks” on a deal to acquire Cambridge, MA-based Acceleron in what previous reports pegged as a potential $11 billion buyout, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday. A deal could come as early as this week, according to the Journal.

Alexander Lefterov/Endpoints News

The coro­n­avirus vac­cine that the world for­got could still help save it

Back at the beginning of the pandemic — back when we still called the virus “novel” and a single case in Washington state could make headlines — there emerged the story of the coronavirus vaccine that the world forgot.

It was an allegory for our pandemic ill-preparedness. At a time when the world had been caught so flat-footed, there were a pair of scientists who had seen the crisis coming, lab-coated Cassandras with an antidote if only the world had listened sooner.

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Habib Dable, Acceleron CEO

Days of heat­ed ru­mors cul­mi­nate in a re­port that Ac­celeron is in ad­vanced buy­out talks

Days of frothy rumors about possible M&A discussions at Acceleron were capped late Friday with a Bloomberg report asserting that the biotech company is in advanced talks for an $11 billion buyout deal.

Bloomberg was unable to identify any bidders in the deal, but speculation has been running rampant that the surging value of Acceleron stock had to be the result of leaks around the auction of the company. As of early Monday morning, we’re still awaiting the final word.

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Brian Hubbard, Anji Pharmacetuticals CEO

Look­ing to rewrite the rules of drug li­cens­ing, start­up An­ji is on the hunt for 'dy­nam­ic eq­ui­ty' joint ven­tures

Licensing is one of the most common ways big drugmakers leverage biotech innovation to drive gains across their pipelines — and the structure of those deals is pretty well established. But one biotech with home bases in China and the US thinks it may have a better way.

On Tuesday, Cambridge-based biotech Anji Pharma closed a $70 million Series B with two late-stage molecules in the fold and a mission to rewrite the rules of drug licensing through what it calls “dynamic equity” deals and a joint venture-heavy game plan. The round was funded in whole by Chinese hedge fund CR Capital.

Safe­ty fears force Pfiz­er to change piv­otal DMD gene ther­a­py tri­al pro­to­col

As one of the biggest players in an increasingly packed gene therapy space, Pfizer has taken an early lead over specialists like Sarepta in taking a Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) candidate into late-stage testing. But new safety fears have led Pfizer to scale back that trial, cutting out patients with certain genetic mutations.

Pfizer has amended its enrollment protocol for a Phase III test for gene therapy fordadistrogene movaparvovec in DMD after investigators flagged severe side effects tied to specific mutations, according to a letter the drugmaker sent to Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy, a patient advocacy group.

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Albert Bourla, Pfizer CEO (John Thys, Pool via AP Images)

Covid-19 roundup: Pfiz­er/BioN­Tech sub­mit vac­cine da­ta to FDA for younger chil­dren; Doc­tors kept pre­scrib­ing hy­drox­y­chloro­quine

Pfizer and BioNTech said Tuesday they submitted to FDA positive data from a Phase II/III trial of their Covid-19 vaccine in children aged 5 to less than 12 years old.

A formal EUA submission for the vaccine in these children is expected to follow “in the coming weeks,” the companies said in a statement.

The trial of 2,268 healthy participants aged 5 to less than 12 years old showed the vaccine was safe and elicited robust neutralizing antibody responses using a two-dose regimen of 10 μg doses, which is one-third the dose that’s administered to adults.

From left to right: Mark Springel, Kristina Wang, Lin Ao, Soufiane Aboulhouda

George Church, his stu­dents, and top VCs go na­tion­wide with a biotech train­ing camp

One night last fall, Floris Engelhardt sat down in her Boston apartment and logged onto a Zoom call, armed with a comic and a vague idea about starting a biotech.

Engelhardt was joining a student-run “match night.” A postdoc at MIT’s Bathe BioNanoLab, where researchers use DNA and RNA like Lego blocks for nanometer-sized structures, Engelhardt wanted to find real-world applications for her work. She sketched out — literally — a plan to use DNA origami, a decade-old technique for precisely folding DNA, to make therapies.

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Paul Hudson, Sanofi CEO (Cyril Marcilhacy/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Sanofi calls it quits on mR­NA Covid-19 shots, scrap­ping vac­cine from $3.2B Trans­late Bio buy­out

Sanofi is throwing in the towel on mRNA-based Covid-19 vaccines.

The French drugmaker will halt development on its unmodified mRNA Covid-19 shot despite what it said were positive Phase I/II results, a spokesperson told Endpoints News on Tuesday morning. Sanofi said the reason it’s stopping the Covid-19 mRNA program, developed in partnership with its new $3.2 billion acquisition Translate Bio, is because the market is too crowded.