Innately Innovative: IFM Therapeutics Acquired By BMS

Today BMS announced the acquisition of IFM Therapeutics, an emerging biotech focused on modulating core innate immune pathways to treat cancer and autoimmune disease. As described in the press release, BMS will acquire the company for $300M upfront, with potentially up to $1.01 B in future milestones for each of the two lead programs. In addition, the non-oncology related assets and the IFM team are being spun out into a new company. With the ever-increasing competition in the immuno-oncology (I/O) space, working with the best clinical and commercial partners is critical to the success of early stage I/O programs. Finding great dedicated partners is very enabling, as they provide access to both checkpoint foundational and novel combo therapy candidates, as well as deep clinical expertise and significant resources to execute on clinical development (and commercialization). IFM consciously pursued that BD strategy, as the company understood that its
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Distinctive Biotech Corporate Culture: Walk The Talk

Corporate culture is often hard to precisely define. Yet it’s always cited as being one of the key drivers of company outperformance, especially for startups. Recently I was asked to define what culture means by a young entrepreneur: beyond the fun social stuff, and beyond the cool company schwag, what really is startup corporate culture all about? Everyone has their own definitions, but to me corporate culture is simply the collective product of how people behave and interact in a company. There are plenty of far more knowledgeable sources on the generic elements of corporate culture, so I won’t elaborate them much here. But it’s worth exploring the role of corporate culture in early stage biotech and how specific behaviors contribute as a powerful differentiators in favor of the best companies. Opining on the subject nearly twenty years ago, Christopher Henney, biotech pioneer and co-founder of Immunex, Icos, and
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Atlas Cranks It Up To Eleven: Fund XI

Today we announced the closing of Atlas Venture Fund XI, a $350M investment vehicle focused exclusively on early stage biotech investing. Since launching our fundraising process in April, we’ve received a truly humbling level of support and interest in our strategy from new and existing Limited Partners, and closed the fund heavily oversubscribed above its original target. A successful fundraise depends in large part on the entrepreneurs who have not only delivered great outcomes but also provided their positive “war story” references on their VCs in the process – so thanks to all of the great entrepreneurs (and co-investors) we’ve had the privilege to work with! With the closing of Fund XI, we’re focused on continuing to deliver on our mission: doing well by doing good. Advancing transformative therapies for patients is incredibly motivating – it’s the exciting purpose that gets us all out of bed in the morning. And,
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Hiring:  Using Your Team To Build A Team

This blog was written by Ankit Mahadevia, CEO of Spero Therapeutics, as part of the From The Trenches feature of LifeSciVC. Much has been said about who and when to hire in this blog (here and here for example), but the how is just as important.  What I’ve observed having built teams across multiple companies is that the support one enlists to build a team can dramatically impact the quality of the process.  I will spend a few paragraphs on the cast of characters that can help this important process be as successful as possible: Board and Team We are big believers at Spero in the power of the collective in assessing cultural fit.  There is a lot of formal scholarship supporting this [here for a reasoned explanation about the power of consensus].  A good fit means that a star hire can spend energy on
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Getting Personal at ASCO 2017: Precision Therapies, IO, and Autologous Cell Therapy

This blog was written by Michael Gladstone, Principal at Atlas Venture, as part of the From The Trenches feature of LifeSciVC. The 2017 American Society of Clinical Oncology (“ASCO”) meeting concluded last week, providing patients, physicians, and industry stakeholders with a big batch of new clinical breakthroughs and disappointments. This event never lacks media coverage, so rather than run through all of the highlights, I’ll draw attention to several underlying themes I find striking, particularly from my perspective as an early-stage biotech company-builder and investor. Targeted Therapies are Back in the Spotlight While immunotherapy has attracted its fair share (or more…) of attention and investment in recent years, 2017 has already been a big year for targeted therapies in genetically stratified patient populations. Two examples are inhibitors of TRK and PARP. TRK Fusion Inhibitors: Small Biotechs Delivering Personalized Therapies Loxo Oncology’s larotrectinib is producing striking efficacy in rare patients with
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The Road to Lexington: RaNA’s Midnight Ride Ignites the mRNA Revolution

This blog was written by Brian Fenton and Paul Burgess, CBO and GC of RaNA Therapeutics, respectively, as part of the From The Trenches feature of LifeSciVC.  On April 18, 1775, Paul Revere was summoned by Dr. Joseph Warren of Boston to ride to Lexington with news that British regulars were marching into the countryside north of the city. A seemingly daunting task, Revere crossed the river into Charlestown, mounted a borrowed horse and began his famous trek. Fast forward to 2016, and another daunting task unfolds: A small biotech across the river from Boston sets out to acquire a promising asset from a global pharma with U.S. headquarters in Lexington. The former begins the story of the American Revolution, and the latter…perhaps a new revolution in mRNA therapeutics. Code-named “Project Patriot”, the deal had been months in the making at RaNA. And except for the press
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Team Atlas Expands Its Roster With Kevin Bitterman

We’re excited to announce Kevin Bitterman has joined Atlas Venture as a partner! Kevin is well known in the Boston biotech ecosystem, having spent the last dozen-plus years on the life science team at Polaris Partners. He brings a great mix of experiences, skills, and interests to the team, and is a superb fit with the group. Kevin trained as a molecular biologist, getting a PhD in David Sinclair’s lab at Harvard where his work focused on chromatin silencing, cellular metabolism, and stress response pathways (the latter of which has helped him become a great board member). He also learned to appreciate the true joy of endlessly splitting HEK293 cells into new culture flasks, so understands both the inspiration and perspiration required in science. The desire to move those insights from bench to bedside – and the accompanying potential to impact patients – is what really drives him, and is
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