Yeah yeah. We know. The life science venture shakeout isn’t over yet. It’ll get smaller before it gets bigger. Happy new year, everybody. That was the drumbeat we heard as we made the rounds at J.P. Morgan this week. But the California sun was shining, the street musicians were banging on their plastic buckets, and the doors of the St. Francis (don’t call it the Westin!) just kept on revolving.
Let us throw a few names at you. Sanderling Ventures. Alex Denner. Ascension Health. Hatteras Venture Partners. Shakeout notwithstanding, all have raised or are raising new health care funds, some by notable means. Hatteras is boosting its fund size 50% to $125 million by adding Small Business Administration loans under a new venture-friendly government program.
Sanderling Ventures, whose last fund was of 2004 vintage – so long ago uncorked it doesn’t even register on START-UP’s latest annual gas-tank chart -- has laid down a marker that it’s looking to raise a seventh fund of $250 million, and GlaxoSmithKline says it will be a limited partner with a $50 million stake.
The venture arm of Ascension Health, one of the largest hospital groups in the US, has raised a third fund of $225 million. And Carl Icahn’s former biotech consigliere Alex Denner is also launching his new hedge fund, friends of FOTF tell us.
But the fund news we found most intriguing was that apparently CMEA Capital of San Francisco is giving an eighth fund a go, and it might be life-sciences only. We’re not sure of the details – and CMEA isn’t talking – but we do know this: two new partners with biotech experience have been dubbed "founding partners" of CMEA 8. It says so on the firm’s Web site. One is Kent Hawryluk, who has been an Indianapolis-based VC with Twilight Venture Partners for years. He helped found Marcadia Biotech in 2006 and sell it to Roche in late 2010 for nearly $300 million upfront. The other is Troy Wilson, who was president, CEO and co-founder of Intellikine until Takeda bought it about a year ago for up to $310 million.
With CMEA maintaining radio silence despite our entreaties, we’re left to speculate about the verbiage on Hawryluk and Wilson’s CMEA pages:
“Our success at Marcadia is a reproducible formula for the portfolio companies of CMEA 8. We focused on transforming breakthrough science into a product needed by patients and Pharma. It was through capital efficiency, proper incentives, and hard work we were able to create value in such a short amount of time.”And…
Wilson’s most recent success illustrates the strength of the CMEA 8 model. He was President and CEO of Intellikine, a company he co-founded. In just over four years, Intellikine discovered three drugs to treat cancer and advanced them into clinical testing… Along with several of his Intellikine colleagues, he recently co-founded Wellspring Biosciences. “It’s exactly the sort of company we want in CMEA 8,” he says.Wellspring, by the way, is developing small molecules for cancer treatment, according to its bare-bones Web site.
Last we heard news from CMEA, it was launching the Velocity Development Corp. in 2011, a virtual development team for asset financing, as a carve-out of its seventh fund. In an earlier permutation, Velocity was supposed to be backed by Eli Lilly & Co. as part of Lilly’s “mirror fund” scheme, but instead it launched in mid-2011 as part of CMEA’s portfolio. Around the same time, Atlas Venture created its own asset-financing group, the Atlas Venture Development Corp. AVDC since has announced two projects, Arteaus Therapeutics and Annovation Biopharma, and in the following months, other asset-based venture schemes have debuted.
All the while, Velocity has been quiet. In discussing Velocity at the time of its launch, CMEA managing general partner Jim Watson, one of the San Francisco firm’s high-tech investors, said there would be no CMEA 8. Plans apparently have changed.
A lot has certainly changed for Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner Risa Stack. On January 7, Stack said she was taking a position as a general manager and a primary deal maker for General Electric's healthyimagination, a $6 billion initiative to make health care affordable and accessible. Stack will develop strategy and drive execution of new initiatives with an initial focus on personalized medicine and health care data, her areas of expertise at KPCB.
Stack already was on the healthyimagination advisory board, and the initiative’s CEO Sue Siegel is a long-time friend and colleague, having worked at Mohr Davidow, a frequent co-investor with Kleiner Perkins in diagnostics. Stack worked closely with co-founder Brook Byers, who also was heavily involved in many of her portfolio companies. (Byers is Kleiner’s board representative at Foundation Medicine, which just extended its Series B round – see item below.) Several of Kleiner Perkins’ diagnostics portfolio companies, including Foundation, CardioDx and Veracyte, are in the early phases of product launch. And with technologies abundant – even fungible, some say – it makes sense to look to integrators like GE to drive adoption.
Raise a fund? Ha. We at FOTF HQ can barely raise our fingers to the keyboard to write this column after four days of pounding the San Francisco pavement. Fortunately, there's nothing better to elevate one's chi and center one's chakras (we are in California, after all) than the year's first edition of...
Foundation Medicine: Coincidence? In Vivo Blog readers name Foundation Medicine’s Series B round their top financing deal of the year. Four days later, the company reveals it’s grabbed the attention, and cash, of three renowned investors who have added $13.5 million in new capital to push the Series B total to $56 million. Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, jVen Capital founder and former Digene chief Evan Jones, and Russian billionaire Yuri Milner topped off the round, following a September 2012 first closing that featured crossover investors Deerfield Management, Redmile Group and Casdin Capital; strategic backers Roche Venture Fund and WuXi Corporate Venture Fund; and VCs Third Rock Ventures, Google Ventures and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. The latest cash infusion arrives as Foundation continues to commercialize its first product, FoundationOne, a genomics test that oncologists use to choose appropriate treatments or clinical trials for cancer patients based on assays of their tumors. Foundation struck at least seven pharma partnerships during 2012, and it is planning to launch a hematologic malignancies test in 2013. Gates invested on his own rather than through his foundation, as he did in a 2011 round for Nimbus Discovery. Milner, known for his late-stage investments in Facebook, Twitter and Zynga, recently took a stake in 23andMe. And Jones, who has backed Veracyte, Fluidigm and CAS Medical Systems, took a board seat at Foundation. – Paul Bonanos
Ultragenyx Pharmaceutical: Last summer, START-UP posed the question “Was Enobia’s Sale A High-Water Mark For Rare Disease Deals?” Rare disease company Ultragenyx is trying to make that question look silly. The Northern California firm with close ties to rare-disease leader BioMarin Pharmaceutical said on December 20 it has raised a $75 million Series B round. It was led by Adage Capital Partners and featured a varied roster of heavyweight crossover public investors, corporate venture groups and its existing venture backers. The cash will go mainly toward the biotech’s lead clinical programs, UX-001, a Phase II replacement therapy for hereditary inclusion body myopathy, and UX-003, an enzyme replacement therapy to treat mucopolysaccharidosis type 7, due to enter a Phase I/II trial this year. The cash also likely means that Ultragenyx will look to go public in the not-too-distant future, often a requisite to entice public investors to make private biotech investments, as our colleague Stacy Lawrence explained in a November START-UP feature. (For more crossover coverage, check out the new In Vivo magazine, in which Stacy has drawn back the curtain on Deerfield Management, which wants to become unequivocally the top health care hedge fund.) Despite the influx from global funds like T. Rowe Price, Blackrock and Jennison Associates, and the inclusion of rare-disease heavyweights Shire and Sanofi-Genzyme Bioventures, one of Ultragenyx’s original backers has the board chair: Eran Nadav of TPG Biotech. TPG and Fidelity Biosciences led the company’s $45 million Series A round – which landed it on START-UP’s 2011 A-List, by the way. – Alex Lash
Labrys Biologics/Solstice Biologics: By lumping two companies together, we don’t mean to imply they are two versions of one concept or two products spun out of one platform. On the contrary, they’re quite different. But they have the same lead Series A investor, venBio, and therein lies the rub. Labrys – $31 million committed, syndicate also includes InterWest Partners, Canaan Partners and Sofinnova Ventures – is a single-asset bet, an antibody to treat chronic migraine pulled from Pfizer’s shelf that should start Phase II this year; that’s the kind of idea venBio mainly was formed to go after. But Solstice – $18 million, and Aeris Capital joins venBio – is a bold technological idea, a reworking of RNA strands to help deliver their therapeutic promise into all kinds of cells. To date, constraints on delivering nucleic acids as drugs have limited the field to a few clinical applications. If Solstice’s RNA engineering works – a big if, as venBio cofounder Corey Goodman told "The Pink Sheet" Daily – it could crack the field wide open and justify the leeway venBio LPs gave Goodman’s team to seek out one or two early stage deals. Meanwhile, Labrys is to some extent a bet on Goodman’s drug connoisseurship. He ran Pfizer’s San Francisco biotech group for a couple years before the Wyeth merger shut down the group, and he was well acquainted with the migraine antibody. When Pfizer decided to outlicense it in early 2012, Goodman joined the competition quickly. – A.L.
Sarepta Therapeutics: On the heels of 48-week extension data from a Phase IIb trial in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) patients, Sarepta priced an underwritten public offering Dec. 13 netting the company $118.2 million. The Cambridge, Mass., firm announced it would offer more than 4.95 million new shares of common stock at $25.25 per share, a slight discount from its same-day closing price of $25.44. The raise capped off a turbulent 2012 for Sarepta. The company had an unclear future after 24-week data from eteplirsen’s Phase IIb trial in DMD produced mixed results. The share price sank as low as $3.24 in December 2011, adjusted for a subsequent reverse stock split, and the firm risked being de-listed by NASDAQ. Gains in early 2012 eroded gradually, and shares neared a new low as recently as July. However, a turnaround began that month as Sarepta engineered a six-for-one reverse stock split to bolster its share price. Then, in short order, it released impressive 36-week and 48-week data for eteplirsen. In the aftermath, Sarepta’s share price soared, peaking at $45 in early October. The improved trial results also brought about major interest in the company from institutional investors, Sarepta CEO Chris Garabedian said. They make up a large majority of the offering’s investors, he said, which comes after an at-the-market facility brought in $37.8 million after the 36-week data were released. -- Joseph Haas
The Best of the Rest: HealthCare Royalty Partners provided Nuron Biotech with $80 million in equity and royalty financing… Russian VC RusnanoMedInvest participated in venture rounds for Regado Biosciences ($51 million), Marinus Pharma ($21 million), and Lithera ($20.6 million)… Naurex completed a $38 million Series B round led by Baxter Ventures...Allakos raised $32 million in Series A funds to support work on immuno-inflammatory antibodies... for its FANG cancer vaccine platform, Gradalis pulled in a $24 million Series B… health IT company Within3 raised $20 million… NeRRe Therapeutics closed an $18.4 million Series A and got rights to GSK’s neurokinin antagonists… To further its anti-diabetic agent imeglimin, Poxel raised $17mm in Series B financing… NanoDimension led a $16 million Series B for Blend Therapeutics… GoBalto raised $12 million in a Series B round to support cloud-based software that simplifies clinical trials… TPG Biotech provided Trevi Therapeutics with $10 million in Series A financing… Avaxia Biologics pulled in a $6.4 million Series B to advance gut-targeted therapies… Actinium Pharma raised $5.1 million as part of a $20 million offering prior to going public via a reverse merger… Tackling hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, Heart Metabolics closed on a $4 million Series A round… Tau Therapeutics collected $3 million to develop T-type calcium channel inhibitors for solid tumors… Transcriptic reportedly crowdfunded its seed round with help from AngelList and SecondMarket… Troika Venture Capital provided undisclosed financing to cancer metabolism firm StemPar Sciences… Rare disease player Synageva closed on a $118 million FOPO… A few weeks after signing on Leica Biosystems to create a companion dx for its NeuVax breast cancer candidate, Galena publicly raised $24 million… The regenerative medicine company Cytori Therapeutics completed a $20 million public offering… Targeting bioactive signaling lipids, Lpath finalized a $12 million follow-on… In a deal with Aspire Capital, Cyclacel raised $20 million… Nymox collected $15 million in a private placement to pay for trials of NX1207 in BPH and prostate cancer… Seaside 88 has provided NanoViricides with $5 million… Tonix Pharmaceuticals closed on a $3.4 million PIPE… Cancer Genetics set IPO terms at 5 million shares for $6-8… Stemline Therapeutics upped its planned IPO offering to 2.3 million shares at $10-12... Audeo Oncology postponed its IPO… To fund Procysbi commercialization, Raptor Pharma got a $50 million loan from HealthCare Royalty Partners… Oxford Finance loaned Agile Therapeutics $15 million… Arno Therapeutics raised an additional $2.15 million in convertible debt on $12.7 million initially collected in November… To help pay for its acquisition of cancer-trating laser equipment, Pinnacle Biologic received an undisclosed amount of debt financing... ADMA Biologics received $6 million in debt financing from Hercules Technology Growth Capital… Abbott officially spun off the biopharma unit AbbVie…and nine months after START-UP wrote about it here, Wellcome Trust launched a £200 million evergreen fund. -- Amanda Micklus
Photo of Powell Street in 1959 courtesy of Roger4336. He took it himself. Please note the previous location of Lefty O'Doul's. It has since moved.