Laurie Glimcher, Dana-Farber president and CEO (Getty Images)

With its rank-and-file churn­ing out star­tups, Dana-Far­ber launch­es ven­ture fund to cap­i­tal­ize on that suc­cess

The pace of in­no­va­tion at the Dana-Far­ber Can­cer In­sti­tute in re­cent years has seen a wave of star­tups launch with IP or lead­er­ship sourced from the non­prof­it’s ranks. Now, look­ing for its own re­turns on that suc­cess, Dana-Far­ber has launched a new ven­ture fund to in­vest in those fledg­ling busi­ness­es.

On Thurs­day, Dana-Far­ber un­veiled Bin­ney Street Cap­i­tal — its first-ever ven­ture fund. Roche and Ver­i­ly vet­er­an Lu­ba Green­wood has been tapped to lead the fund, which was named af­ter the lo­ca­tion of the in­sti­tute’s Boston site.

“We’re re­al­ly ex­cit­ed that we can re­al­ly cat­alyze the mis­sion, ba­si­cal­ly, that the Dana Far­ber has,” Green­wood said. “This fund is all to sup­port our mis­sion to find cures for can­cer, so we’re very pas­sion­ate about that,” she added lat­er.

In­vest­ments will be made in eight to 10 star­tups with ties to Dana-Far­ber over the next three years, rang­ing from $250,000 to $2 mil­lion. While the main fo­cus will be ther­a­peu­tics, Dana-Far­ber will al­so con­sid­er nov­el di­ag­nos­tics, dig­i­tal health and ser­vices com­pa­nies.

“We must com­mit all the re­sources we can to re­duce the bur­den of can­cer, in the clin­ic and in our lab­o­ra­to­ries,” Dana-Far­ber pres­i­dent and CEO Lau­rie Glim­ch­er said in a state­ment.

To be con­sid­ered, star­tups must have been ei­ther been cre­at­ed with in­tel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty from Dana-Far­ber or co-found­ed by one of the in­sti­tute’s in­ves­ti­ga­tors. Dana-Far­ber says its re­search and in­tel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty has helped launch more than 11 star­tups in the last three years alone.

“The sci­ence has to be dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed, it has to be tru­ly break-through…” Green­wood said. “So ba­si­cal­ly the best of the best in on­col­o­gy and im­munol­o­gy.”

Since 2013, Se­ries A in­vest­ments in on­col­o­gy have out­paced all oth­er in­di­ca­tions in deals and dol­lars, ac­cord­ing to Sil­i­con Val­ley Bank’s 2020 an­nu­al re­port. That is, un­til 2019, when on­col­o­gy was out­raised by plat­form com­pa­nies. The can­cer space still at­tract­ed $835 mil­lion in Se­ries A cash, though — hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars more than the amounts raised in neu­rol­o­gy and or­phan/rare dis­eases, ac­cord­ing to SVB.

Back in Oc­to­ber, MD An­der­son launched the Can­cer Fo­cus Fund in con­junc­tion with The Fo­cus Fund. They start­ed off with more than $50 mil­lion in ini­tial cap­i­tal to ad­vance in­ves­ti­ga­tion­al can­cer ther­a­pies from late pre­clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment through Phase I and Phase Ib/II clin­i­cal tri­als.

“With this new Fund, Dana-Far­ber can in­vest in start-up com­pa­nies and lever­age our rights to par­tic­i­pate in sub­se­quent fi­nanc­ing rounds,” said Les­ley Solomon, Dana-Far­ber’s chief in­no­va­tion of­fi­cer. “Sup­port­ing in­no­v­a­tive tech­nolo­gies that pro­vide new treat­ments and cures for can­cer will ben­e­fit patents all over the world. In ad­di­tion, the Fund will pro­vide in­vest­ment re­turns to sup­port on­go­ing dis­cov­ery at the In­sti­tute.”

Health­care Dis­par­i­ties and Sick­le Cell Dis­ease

In the complicated U.S. healthcare system, navigating a serious illness such as cancer or heart disease can be remarkably challenging for patients and caregivers. When that illness is classified as a rare disease, those challenges can become even more acute. And when that rare disease occurs in a population that experiences health disparities, such as people with sickle cell disease (SCD) who are primarily Black and Latino, challenges can become almost insurmountable.

Jacob Van Naarden (Eli Lilly)

Ex­clu­sives: Eli Lil­ly out to crash the megablock­buster PD-(L)1 par­ty with 'dis­rup­tive' pric­ing; re­veals can­cer biotech buy­out

It’s taken 7 years, but Eli Lilly is promising to finally start hammering the small and affluent PD-(L)1 club with a “disruptive” pricing strategy for their checkpoint therapy allied with China’s Innovent.

Lilly in-licensed global rights to sintilimab a year ago, building on the China alliance they have with Innovent. That cost the pharma giant $200 million in cash upfront, which they plan to capitalize on now with a long-awaited plan to bust up the high-price market in lung cancer and other cancers that have created a market worth tens of billions of dollars.

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So what hap­pened with No­var­tis' gene ther­a­py group? Here's your an­swer

Over the last couple of days it’s become clear that the gene therapy division at Novartis has quietly undergone a major reorganization. We learned on Monday that Dave Lennon, who had pursued a high-profile role as president of the unit with 1,500 people, had left the pharma giant to take over as CEO of a startup.

Like a lot of the majors, Novartis is an open highway for head hunters, or anyone looking to staff a startup. So that was news but not completely unexpected.

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Who are the women su­per­charg­ing bio­phar­ma R&D? Nom­i­nate them for this year's spe­cial re­port

The biotech industry has faced repeated calls to diversify its workforce — and in the last year, those calls got a lot louder. Though women account for just under half of all biotech employees around the world, they occupy very few places in C-suites, and even fewer make it to the helm.

Some companies are listening, according to a recent BIO survey which showed that this year’s companies were 2.5 times more likely to have a diversity and inclusion program compared to last year’s sample. But we still have a long way to go. Women represent just 31% of biotech executives, BIO reported. And those numbers are even more stark for women of color.

David Meek, new Mirati CEO (Marlene Awaad/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Fresh off Fer­Gene's melt­down, David Meek takes over at Mi­rati with lead KRAS drug rac­ing to an ap­proval

In the insular world of biotech, a spectacular failure can sometimes stay on any executive’s record for a long time. But for David Meek, the man at the helm of FerGene’s recent implosion, two questionable exits made way for what could be an excellent rebound.

Meek, most recently FerGene’s CEO and a past head at Ipsen, has become CEO at Mirati Therapeutics, taking the reins from founding CEO Charles Baum, who will step over into the role of president and head of R&D, according to a release.

Rafaèle Tordjman (Jeito Capital)

Con­ti­nu­ity and di­ver­si­ty: Rafaèle Tord­j­man's women-led VC firm tops out first fund at $630M

For a first-time fund, Jeito Capital talks a lot about continuity.

Rafaèle Tordjman had spotlighted that concept ever since she started building the firm in 2018, promising to go the extra mile(s) with biotech entrepreneurs while pushing them to reach patients faster.

Coincidentally, the lack of continuity was one of the sore spots listed in a report about the European healthcare sector published that same year by the European Investment Bank — whose fund is one of the LPs, alongside the American pension fund Teacher Retirement System of Texas and Singapore’s Temasek, to help Jeito close its first fund at $630 million (€534 million). As previously reported, Sanofi had chimed in €50 million, marking its first investment in a French life sciences fund.

When ef­fi­ca­cy is bor­der­line: FDA needs to get more con­sis­tent on close-call drug ap­provals, agency-fund­ed re­search finds

In the exceedingly rare instances in which clinical efficacy is the only barrier to a new drug’s approval, new FDA-funded research from FDA and Stanford found that the agency does not have a consistent standard for defining “substantial evidence” when flexible criteria are used for an approval.

The research comes as the FDA is at a crossroads with its expedited-review pathways. The accelerated approval pathway is under fire as the agency recently signed off on a controversial new Alzheimer’s drug, with little precedent to explain its decision. Meanwhile, top officials like Rick Pazdur have called for a major push to simplify and clarify all of the various expedited pathways, which have grown to be must-haves for sponsors of nearly every newly approved drug.

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Af­ter sell­ing to Genen­tech, the old Je­cure team is back at an RNA-fo­cused start­up — and more en­thu­si­as­tic than ever

When Genentech swooped in to buy NASH-focused Jecure Therapeutics back in 2018, a handful of the startup’s executives weren’t quite ready to disperse.

It had been just three years since Jecure launched with a preclinical portfolio of NLRP3 inhibitors — and the takeover came sooner than anyone, including CEO Jeff Stafford, had expected. So he got talking with James Veal and Gretchen Bain, two serial entrepreneurs in charge of Jecure’s R&D.

Lat­est news: It’s a no on uni­ver­sal boost­ers; Pa­tient death stuns gene ther­a­py field; In­side Tril­li­um’s $2.3B turn­around; and more

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