Novartis alums Jimenez, Fishman unveil their next act: Aditum Bio

When Joe Jimenez left Novartis, one thing was clear: After 11 years in the biopharma biz and eight at the Swiss drugmaker’s helm, he was ready to build something from scratch. Now, he’s unveiling that something: Aditum Bio, a biotech investment firm he co-founded with Mark Fishman, M.D., former president of the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research.

The duo set up shop in 2019 but are coming out of stealth now that Aditum has closed its first fund of $135 million and launched its second company, Jimenez said. Its strategy is to pick up preclinical programs and spin them into companies to carry out phase 1 and phase 2 work.

“We saw a void in the market where many companies were focusing a lot of resources on immuno-oncology, cell and gene therapy and rare diseases, and it was leaving open disease areas where there are large patient populations, like obesity and substance abuse disorder, but are not getting the same kind of resources,” Jimenez said. “Aditum is the Latin word for ‘access,’ and the mission of this company is to give patients access to medicines that otherwise might not get developed.”

RELATED: Novartis ventures again into digital therapeutics with 'lazy eye' video game buy and collabs with Ubisoft, McGill

It’s using both a top-down and bottom-up approach to find its programs, Jimenez said. The former leans on Jimenez and Fishman’s network of CEOs and R&D chiefs in the industry, while the latter involves a business development team that’s on the hunt for programs that fit Aditum’s criteria but are being deprioritized at other companies.

Aditum’s first spinout, Teres Bio, is working on treatments for atopic dermatitis and plaque psoriasis, while its second, Tempero Bio, is developing a drug licensed from Sosei Heptares for anxiety and substance use disorders. The drug, TMP-301, targets metabotropic glutamate receptor type 5 (mGluR5), which plays a role in many central nervous system and psychiatric disorders by controlling glutamate activity in the brain.

But what Aditum isn't doing is spending money on research. "We pick up drugs just as they’re exiting research and about to go into clinical testing,” Jimenez said. “Aditum will fully fund phase 1 and phase 2, where we create the first in-human data because that translational medicine phase is where the smallest amount of capital creates the greatest value.”

RELATED: 'Closer to the science': Why Amgen vets Harper and Seidenberg set up their own VC shop

Aditum is working with TrialSpark to run these trials more quickly and cheaply than Big Pharmas would, the company says.

At the end of phase 2, the firm will reach a crossroad—it could join forces with other investors to fund phase 3 studies, or set its spinouts up to go public, he added.

And Aditum isn’t just pushing drugs through the clinic. It’s also pairing each drug it makes with a digital tool to help patients get the most out of their medicine.

“We believe in these large patient population disease areas that behavior modification is just as important as getting the therapy we’re going to be providing,” Jimenez said. The digital tools will most likely be mobile apps, which could, in the case of TMP-301, help patients stick to their treatment plan.

RELATED: Novartis ex-CEO Jimenez speaks out as top lawyer takes the fall for $1.2M Cohen deal

With its current fund closed, Aditum is focusing on finding new programs for more spinouts. But once it’s deployed the $135 million, it will go out and raise a second fund, and then a third, Jimenez said.

“This is a trend that is not going to end soon. There are more therapies available than clinical trial budgets will accommodate, so we think of this as a multiyear, multifund activity,” he said.