With $1.2B NASH deal behind them, Nimbus raises $65M for I/O, other R&D

You might remember Nimbus for the massive NASH deal it inked with Gilead a couple years back — earning a remarkable $400 million upfront. The company’s bread and butter has been teaming up with heavyweights like Gilead, Celgene, and Genentech to take its promising roster of drugs through development. But now, Nimbus is stepping out with plans to push forward its own internal set of programs — and the company’s backers just put up $65 million to finance the work.

Don Nicholson

Nimbus’ CEO Don Nicholson tells me the company wanted to make a bet on some of its unencumbered programs: a STING agonist applied to immuno-oncology (not to be confused with the STING antagonist partnered with Celgene) and an unnamed candidate Nicholson is keeping under wraps.

The first thing that struck me about Nimbus’ new fundraising round is that the company already seemed well-capitalized. It’s had backing from the likes of Atlas Venture, SR One, Lilly Ventures and even Bill Gates, among others. And after earning its $400 million upfront payment from Gilead back in 2016, it quickly scored another $200 million just six months after. That’s half of a deal that could total $1.2 billion if all milestones are met, and Nicholson says those aren’t post-marketing biobucks — they’re “fairly proximal” milestones.

But Nicholson said the “lion’s share” of the Gilead money went back to his investors, as the company’s working hard to keep Nimbus off the public markets (for now). While most VCs push for IPOs to get payouts, Nicholson said his syndicate was happy with their partnership approach instead.

“The deals we did with Gilead and hopefully Celgene are very positive for our investors,” Nicholson said. “That was substantially more money than most biotechs will make when they do a public offering.”

Jeb Keiper

The company’s CFO Jeb Keiper noted in its press release that Nimbus already had a “nine figure” balance sheet of resources to work with. Why raise money now? Nicholson said it has a lot to do with company structure (its assets live in separate companies under one umbrella LLC), and its internal programs needed their own capital to get going.

Although Nimbus is keeping its cards close to the vest, Nicholson did say its programs will focus on metabolic disorders, oncology, and immunology.

For this recent financing round, all of Nimbus’ previous investors participated, including Atlas Venture, SR One, Lilly Ventures, Bill Gates, Pfizer Venture Investments, Lightstone Ventures, and Schrödinger.

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