Transplant Tailwinds and Momentum

This blog was written by Jason Gardner, CEO and co-founder of Magenta Therapeutics, as part of the From The Trenches feature of LifeSciVC.           

There’s a proverb that goes like this, “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together; but if you want momentum, go with tailwinds.

The first two parts of this proverb apply to many young biotechs that move quickly by being focused and the need for an array of partnerships and long-term investors to go much farther.

Gaining momentum, however, is the elusive amplifier of a company’s mission. From our early learnings in building Magenta as a therapeutics company with the aim of transforming stem cell transplant medicine, catching tailwinds to harness momentum is critical.

Momentum. The essential ingredient for any company that blends data, people, and the plan with multiple elements synergizing

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Launching Science2Startup: Connecting Academics With Venture

We’re excited to announce the launch of Science2Startup, an invitation-only university-focused biotech entrepreneurship event aimed at building connectivity across the academic, tech transfer, and venture communities.

This event is in many ways a relaunch of the successful URES (University Research & Entrepreneurship Symposium) event, which Atlas helped organize from 2006-2013. URES was widely viewed as a great event for connecting entrepreneurial academic investigators from all of the country with experienced venture investors in the Cambridge/Boston startup ecosystem.  Over the years, hundreds of proposals were reviewed from universities around the world, and dozens selected to present at URES events. An early 2011 blog post highlighted some of the projects that were being presented at URES 2011. There are more than dozen examples of startups that emerged from presentations at URES.

Working with our friends at SV Health Investors and F-Prime Capital, we’ve modeled Science2Startup (S2S) after some of the

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Nimbus Therapeutics Reaches Summit For Deal With Celgene

Today Nimbus and Celgene announced a significant partnership focused on autoimmune and inflammatory diseases.

The alliance includes two pre-clinical autoimmune-focused programs in various stages of drug discovery. The most advanced program is a highly selective inhibitor of Tyk2, an immunokinase of the JAK family, which plays a central role in the inflammatory response (triggering IL-23, IL-12, and Type-I interferon). Human genetics, including both loss- and gain-of-function changes, validate Tyk2 as perhaps the most critical JAK family member to attenuate in many major autoimmune diseases.  Given Tyk2’s proximal role in regulating both Th17 and Th1 responses, the target is one of the most sought after by immunology R&D groups.  BMS has a competing Tyk2 program in early clinical development. The figure below illustrates why a safe, well tolerated oral Tyk2 inhibitor has enormous potential: it would not only replicate the efficacy of multiple blockbuster mAbs, but also explore a

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VC-Backed Biotech Financings: Boom Or Bubble?

Private biotech funding numbers are in for the third quarter and on an absolute capital basis they are huge: $3.6B flowed into private biotechs, the largest quarter of VC-funding into biopharma ever in the history of our industry, according to a preliminary view of Pitchbook data.

The news has been full of financing announcements of late.  Just this morning, KSQ announced a $76M financing.  In September, Intarcia topped up its Series EE financing, reaching $650M, which should help it navigate its regulatory situation. Many other firms also came in with strong financings, e.g., SpringWorks raising $103M, Gritstone $93M, Homology $84M, etc. Our portfolio at Atlas Venture was busy too, with Replimune raising $55M, Disarm at $30M, Rodin at $27M, and few stealth ones to be announced soon.

Here’s the aggregate quarterly data where you can see the massive jump in financings in the third quarter:

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Building Community: One Stride At A Time

Building a shared sense of community helps create the relationships and interactions that bring people together and make teams and sector ecosystems successful. Community is a core part of building a distinctive culture.

With a portfolio of related investments, industry networks, and need for constant idea flow, venture firms are natural conveners of and catalysts for this kind of community connectivity.

Most successful VC firms have invested in a wide range of ways of cultivating these relationships, from executive industry events, CxO gatherings across their portfolio, topical bootcamps, social functions, academic conferences, etc…  Atlas has certainly invested heavily in the breadth of these efforts over time, and continues to do so.

In addition, in a world where our time is limited and we have a thousand things to do, it’s often difficult to maintain any balance in life. Healthy activities like exercise routines are often the first thing to get

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Venturing Boldly Into Neuroscience

Neuroscience has quietly become a hot space for startups. Across a range of neurologic conditions, contrarian investors have been fueling entrepreneurs to discover and develop novel therapeutic strategies.

Earlier this week, two Atlas-founded companies, Rodin Therapeutics and Disarm Therapeutics, both announced new financings aimed at advancing their programs in synaptic resilience and axonal protection, respectively. Another portfolio company, Lysosomal Therapeutics (LTI), did a transformative deal with Allergan earlier this year to bring its Parkinson’s through early clinical studies. And beyond our investment portfolio, there’s plenty of activity: CNS-focused Denali Therapeutics raised a monster round of financing rumored to have closed at an eye-popping $1.2B valuation. Many other venture-backed biotechs addressing neurologic diseases were able to raise significant rounds of venture funding, including Cortexyme, Cavion, Blackthorn, Axial Biotherapeutics, and many others. Its clear neuroscience is getting investors excited.

These anecdotes of heightened investment activity

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Alternative Perspectives On The Biotech M&A Environment

Last month, Bloomberg bemoaned the dearth of biotech M&A, and pundits echoed the sentiment (here, here), citing concerns about tax rates and drug pricing.

The top line numbers in Bloomberg’s graph certainly paint a dim view of 2017’s global biotech acquisition activity, though I might quibble with the underlying data if I got a chance to engage on it. For instance, they show “global biotech” M&A activity in 2016 at ~$35B and 2017 at $11.5B. Where’s Actelion’s $30B takeout by J&J, announced in 2016 and closed in 2017? It appears, after connecting with the author, that part of this discrepancy involves what industry classifications define as “biotech” and what’s not. For data geeks, Pharma and Biotech have different GICS/SIC codes, which is of course more archeology about the fields decades ago than reality today. After all, Actelion Pharmaceuticals called itself a “Pharma” company in its moniker.

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