Viehbacher's $2B biotech fund wagers $600M on an R&D upstart

Chris Viehbacher

Gurnet Point Capital, a biotech investment firm run by ex-Sanofi CEO Chris Viehbacher, launched its first company with a $600 million commitment and a plan to partner up with industry and academia.

Boston Pharmaceuticals is getting off the ground with the mission of finding promising clinical candidates and buying their development rights, taking up the onus of R&D in hopes of creating value. Viehbacher will serve as the company's chairman, and Robert Armstrong, former head of external R&D at Eli Lilly ($LLY), will lead as CEO.

The idea is to trawl a network of researchers and biotech entrepreneurs for high-potential assets around the world, Boston Pharmaceuticals said, remaining agnostic with respect to therapeutic area or medical modality. Once it picks an asset, the company will take on the risk of R&D, drawing on Gurnet's financial commitment to press the project forward and either going all the way to commercialization or flipping it to another company along the way, Armstrong said.

"We aim to have a large portfolio of programs encompassing both large and small molecules across multiple therapeutic areas," Armstrong said in a statement. "By not having any imperatives other than the successful development of its molecules, Boston Pharmaceuticals will be in the most unbiased position to exploit their full potential."

The company also appointed Santiago Arroyo, formerly of Pfizer ($PFE), in the chief medical officer role and Constantine Chinoporos, who handled licensing and business development at Sanofi, to be chief business officer.

Gurnet came into existence over the summer thanks to Swiss billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli, who tapped Viehbacher to help him place bets in biotech with a $2 billion purse. The fund plans to split its investments between seedlings like Boston Pharmaceuticals and existing entities, Viehbacher has said.

- read the announcement

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