Forbion raises €270M, EU-focused life science fund

Sander Slootweg, managing partner at Forbion. (Forbion)

Forbion has raised a €270 million ($316 million), Europe-focused life sciences fund. The bumper first close of the fund follows a period in which Forbion has shown a knack for picking winners.

Dutch VC shop Forbion came to widespread attention when Amgen acquired its portfolio companies BioVex and Dezima Pharma for more than $2 billion in upfront and milestone payments. Those exits helped Forbion to dial up the size of its third fund, which topped out at €183 million in 2016. Now, with more successes under its belt and money flooding into biotech, Forbion’s fourth fund has eased past the size of its predecessor.

The jump in the amount of money available to Forbion will allow it to take bigger stakes in startups. Rather than spread the money around, Forbion plans to invest in 15 companies—the same number as its third fund targeted—and use its increased financial might to snag initial stakes of 20% to 50%.  

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Forbion is largely following the same blueprint that served it well with its third fund. That means around 80% of the companies backed by the fourth fund will come from the U.K. and the rest of Europe. Forbion is looking to North America to provide the remaining 20% of its portfolio.

In terms of therapeutic areas, Forbion made its name in cardiovascular diseases and oncology, before taking its first steps into neurodegeneration with its third fund. For the fourth fund, Forbion will build on this platform by working with its venture partners and scientific advisers to identify investments in both its old haunts and new areas. 

“We continue to closely follow new scientific developments … with a potential to address serious pharmaceutical markets, make a couple of bold investments into solid clinical proof of concept as required by future pharma partners,” Sander Slootweg, managing partner at Forbion, said. “Areas to consider for Forbion IV include cardiovascular, selective oncology, inflammatory diseases, fibrosis and neurodegeneration as well as newer areas like microbiome, epitranscriptomics and selected areas in gene and cell therapy.” 

Of the 15 companies Forbion plans to invest in, five will be startups it founds or co-founds. The other 10 portfolio plays will be existing companies. 

Forbion has enjoyed successes with both types of biotech in the past. The VC helped to found Dezima and supported it through the early steps on its route to a $300 million upfront takeover by Amgen. Prexton Therapeutics, in contrast, was already up and running when Forbion co-led a €29 million series B. The next year, Lundbeck paid €100 million upfront to buy Prexton. 

Prexton is one of three exits achieved to date by Forbion’s third fund. Forbion thinks several more exits, including a near-term IPO, are in the making. In parallel, Forbion will work toward the final close of its fund, which is pencilled in for fall.