Editas backer Partners taps Lilly to help raise $171M fund

Massachusetts General Hospital, part of the Partners network and an investor in its fund. (MGH)

Partners HealthCare System has grown its early-stage fund into a $171 million investment vehicle. The Boston-based hospital network achieved the jump in scale by turning to outside backers including Eli Lilly, which collectively pumped $66 million into the fund.

Astellas Pharma and China’s ShangPharma and Simcere Pharmaceutical joined Lilly on the list of drug companies to invest in the fund. 

The industry contribution added to the $105 million Partners Innovation Fund had already pulled in from institutions in its network, most notably The Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). Those two cornerstones of healthcare in the region each contributed $50 million.

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The result is Partners Innovation Fund now has more money than ever to execute an investment strategy that has served it well since it began life with $35 million in 2008.  

Partners Innovation Fund invests solely in innovations created at institutions within the Partners network, such as BWH and MGH. That limited source has proven to be a rich seam of companies. The fund lists CRISPR pioneer Editas Medicine, immuno-oncology startup CoStim Pharmaceuticals and inflammatory disease player Adheron among its successes. 

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Editas went public in a $94 million IPO in 2016, while CoStim and Adheron were snapped up by Novartis and Roche, respectively, over the two preceding years. Roche paid $105 million upfront and committed to up to $475 million more to land Adheron. Novartis never said how much it paid out for CoStim.

The successes have enabled money to be reinvested into the fund and attracted the attention of organizations from outside of the healthcare network. Partners Innovation Fund is now looking to its next crop of investments for more paydays. 

Deep-pocketed Alzheimer’s startup Denali Therapeutics, newly-public anti-infectives player Spero Therapeutics and 2017 Fierce 15 winner Magenta Therapeutics are among the 32 companies the fund has backed to date.