Flagship Pioneering flags down another $2.2B to expand preemptive, pioneering medicine divisions

Flagship Pioneering decided that $1.1 billion was not enough.

The biotech innovator behind Moderna and other companies has raised another $2.23 billion for a fund that closed in April 2020, bringing the treasure’s total to $3.37 billion.

Flagship raised the seventh fund toward the beginning of the pandemic but decided to reopen the round this April to dive deeper into preemptive and pioneering medicines. The fresh capital comes from existing limited partners and undisclosed new investors.

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The follow-on also brings together Flagship’s origination and growth strategies under one investment vehicle as part of the venture firm’s long-term focus. Flagship raised the first part of the fund at a time of major uncertainty for the biotech industry, but those murky waters appear to be much clearer now that the firm has had a year to navigate COVID-19 and put some of the capital to use. Moderna was the best example of this as it rolled out a COVID-19 vaccine.

“Biotechnology is at the leading edge of technological progress, challenging us to think beyond incremental advances and take big leaps—and Flagship Pioneering is focused on actively leaping to the scientific spaces ripe for disruption,” said Noubar Afeyan, Ph.D., CEO and founder, in a statement.

Flagship believes its past year is a mark of success that can be repeated with a boatload of additional cash. Generate Biomedicines, Invaio Sciences, Inzen Therapeutics, Laronde and Valo Health were Flagship biotechs that debuted last year and are part of a larger crop of companies that took in hoards of capital.  

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Just last week, Valo Health, which uses computational technology meant to shrink R&D timelines, said it would go public through a merger with special purpose acquisition company Khosla Ventures Acquisition.

In the past four quarters, Flagship pumped $370 million into its companies, which was coupled with more than $4.4 billion from other investors. With Monday’s additional capital, Flagship now has an overall pool of $6.7 billion to work from and $14.1 billion in assets under management.

The fresh funds will give a booster to Flagship’s latest division, Preemptive Medicine and Health Security. The goal is protecting health prior to sickness. Expect bolder ambitions for treating existing diseases such as obesity, cancer and neurodegeneration, the company said.

"The pandemic has laid bare the critical nature of health, not only to individuals, but to economies and societies," said Ara Darzi, M.D., chair of the preemptive medicine unit, in a statement.

In line with a focus on getting ahead of sickness, Flagship is doubling down on creating therapeutics that help patients sooner. This is the thinking behind the Pioneering Medicines division, which launched earlier this year to create medicines for diseases that Flagship has not historically worked on.