Bioluminescence enters biotech venture spotlight with almost $500M under management

Bioluminescence is rocketing out of stealth, looking to warm a frigid funding environment with the embrace of fresh funding. 

The new venture capital outfit is entering the fold with $477 million in assets under management across two funds, including investments in startups like genetic-medicines-focused ReCode Therapeutics and neuroscience biotech Nido Biosciences, according to Wednesday’s unveiling. The two funds are Bioluminescence Ventures Fund I and II, respectively. 

“Innovation never stops, even when financing does,” Founding and Managing Partner Kouki Harasaki, Ph.D., said in a release. 

The firm didn’t pin down a specific type of modality or therapeutic area that would draw the most investment, saying only that it wanted to back science that spurs “first-in-class or best-in-class therapies.” A separate flyer notes that the firm is interested in breakthrough biology and platform-based biotechs. Bioluminescence did also specify that it prefers to lead rounds rather than just participate in them. 

In addition to ReCode and Nido, the firm has already invested in cell therapy developer Ensoma and immunotherapy-focused Surge Therapeutics. Bioluminescence contributed to Ensoma’s $50 million series B extension announced in May and led Surge’s $32 million series B in July. Harasaki sits on the board of all four biotechs.

Before founding Bioluminescence, Harasaki led the life science investment wing at Microsoft Ventures and was a senior partner at Andreessen Horowitz (now a16z). In a past life—until 2016—Harasaki worked in business development roles in industry, including at Baxalta and Novartis. 

Bioluminescence’s formal arrival follows a handful of other recent VC fund closures. International firm Abingworth, owned by the Carlyle Group, announced a new $356 million fund on Monday, and last week major healthcare player OrbiMed banked $4.3 billion across three funds for a fresh wave of investments.