Leaping forward: Bayer VC arm commits $1.4B to double investment pace through 2024

Leaps by Bayer, the venture capital arm of the Big Pharma, is looking to catapult itself into the future by committing more than €1.3 billion in new investments through 2024, more than doubling the pace of spending to date. 

The new investment plan was announced Friday as a part of Bayer's Breakthrough Innovation Forum, a telescopic lens into the company’s vision for biopharma and agriculture. Having already doled out more than €1.3 billion ($1.44 billion) to over 50 companies in the last seven years, the future for Leaps is a rapid ramp-up in the pace of new investments.

And Leaps is already on a blistering pace, having invested in at least six different companies in 2022. At the start of the year, Jürgen Eckhardt, head of the VC shop, told Fierce Biotech that the firm would make eight to 10 investments this year in a bid to make “fewer, but maybe bigger bets going forward.” Based on the calendar, the higher end of that range seems to be the likely scenario. 

In the latest announcement, Eckhardt was ambiguous in what Leaps plans to target, saying the cash will “provide funding for the brightest minds working on solutions that truly make a difference for people and the planet.” 

Some of Leaps' bets so far have been in cell therapy, including BlueRock Therapeutics, which Bayer eventually fully acquired for up to $600 million in 2019.

The firm's latest investment stays in the same lane, with Leaps co-leading a fundraising round for Affini-T Therapeutics, which is led by former Leaps VP Jak Knowles. The company is banking on the KRAS gene as a key to both unlocking a more robust T-cell response in oncology and using cell therapy to treat solid tumors.

Affini-T also exemplified Echkardt’s goal to make “bigger bets”, particularly amid the tumult of the public biotech market. In talking about his investment, he noted it was important to give the company a long enough runway to weather “this sort of financial storm and other storms that we are going through right now.” 

In addition to Affini-T, Leaps has sprinkled funding on a diverse list of companies so far this year, ranging from Dewpoint, which is focused on developing biomolecular condensates, to Indapta Therapeutics and its natural killer cell platform.