Bayer adds $25M to Versant's new, $300M-plus biotech venture fund

Chris Haskell, who leads Bayer's U.S. Science Hub

Bayer HealthCare is adding $25 million to Versant Ventures' new biotech fund--its fifth--and taking an advisory role with the investment group.

Back in the summer Versant notified the SEC in a Form D that it was just a few million dollars shy of its $300 million goal for wrapping the fund, which is designed to back a new wave of biotechs and med tech companies. This is the VC's first new fund since IV closed with $500 million back in 2008, as the financial crisis hit. And Bayer's cash apparently has put Versant well past the goal line.

"This gets us a seat at the table," says Chris Haskell, who head Bayer's U.S. science hub. This new tie-up follows a recent $252 million gene therapy deal Bayer completed with Dimension Therapeutics, and Haskell says the new investment is all about keeping a close watch on the next-gen technologies that Versant has considerable expertise in fostering.

This new money will be earmarked for the startup crowd. Versant was one of the pioneers in the area of seeding new "build-to-buy" biotechs and growing them under the watchful eye of a Big Pharma patron standing by with an option to buy. Bayer has an option deal on a build-to-buy operation Versant's Inception group launched for eye diseases, such as wet age-related macular degeneration and geographic atrophy. Inception also started a new company with Roche that will set out to generate some proof-of-concept data on repairing damaged nerves in multiple sclerosis patients.

Inception is run by Amira co-founder Peppi Prasit, who recently returned to his old haunts in Montreal to open the group's third R&D site.

- here's the release

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