Foresite Capital closes oversubscribed $668M venture fund

Before starting Foresite, CEO Jim Tananbaum founded Geltex Pharmaceuticals, which Genzyme acquired for $1.6 billion in 2000, and then helped launch Theravance as its CEO. (Foresite Capital)

Foresite Capital surpassed its $650 million goal to close its largest fund yet, with $668 million in capital commitments. While the firm doesn't limit itself by therapeutic area, it will pay particular attention to companies using data science and machine learning in the healthcare and life sciences space. 

Foresite has invested in public and private companies since its founding, including Denali and Rhythm Pharma, which in 2017 pulled off a $250 million and $120 million IPO respectively. Its portfolio also includes Jounce Therapeutics, Tocagen and Biohaven, all of which also went public last year. 

The new fund brings Foresite's total assets under management to $2 billion and follows a $450 million raise in 2015, a $300 million fund put together in 2014 and a $100 million close in 2013, all slated to bankroll late-stage companies. 

Now, CEO Jim Tananbaum is calling Foresite stage-agnostic. It's looking to back companies "delivering solutions against an interesting problem" and sets itself apart from other venture funds by looking beyond pushing a program into clinical development or landing a larger partner, Tananbaum said in an interview with FierceBiotech. 

"We're really interested, over time, in helping companies bring products to market and stay with them all the way through profitability," he said. 

To do that, Foresite is following a "data- and science-driven" investment approach that Tananbaum says leads to things moving more quickly and efficiently than they would have. 

"The macroscopic picture is really that every single thing, from the earliest stages of drug discovery to clinical questions, is being informed by data of the right scale and quality so that you can use them rigorously and statistically to answer questions that come up at every stage of the process," said Vik Bajaj, a managing director at Foresite. 

Foresite's latest investments reflect its data-focused mindset. On Wednesday, the firm backed Daphne Koller's machine-learning drug R&D startup, insitro, alongside a list of marquee investors—ARCH Venture Partners, a16z, GV and Third Rock Ventures. Foresite also backs Mindstrong, which developed machine learning tech that can shed light on a patient’s state of mind by analyzing the way he or she uses a smartphone. The hope is to devise objective measures for mental health, like those used in other disease areas.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the value of Foresite's first fund. It was $100 million, not $1 million.