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.”