Sean Harper and Beth Seidenberg unite to run $320M VC fund

Sean Harper joins Beth Seidenberg to form Westlake Village BioPartners, a new West Coast venture capital shop with $320 million in funding. (Amgen)

Sean Harper, M.D., has revealed his next move. The former head of R&D at Amgen is teaming up with Beth Seidenberg, M.D., to lead investing activities at Westlake Village BioPartners, a new West Coast venture capital shop that has $320 million to pump into biotechs.

Harper handed in his notice at Amgen earlier this year “to pursue opportunities in the early-stage biotechnology community,” sparking speculation about his next step. Now, Harper has revealed he has put a different spin on the migration from established companies to emerging startups. Instead of committing to one biotech, Harper has joined Westlake to incubate a clutch of early-stage drug developers.

Seidenberg is also leaving a high-profile position to be part of the founding team at Westlake. The former Amgen CMO has spent the past 13 years at Kleiner Perkins. But in May Recode reported she was raising money for her own biotech fund. 

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Today’s news confirms that report. Seidenberg has secured $320 million in committed funding for Westlake’s first fund. The money will be invested by Seidenberg and Harper, who will mainly focus on incubating startups and backing other early-stage businesses. In doing so, the duo plan to leverage their contacts to pair entrepreneurs with technologies from academia, industry and elsewhere. The rest of the cash will go into later-stage businesses. 

Seidenberg and Harper are joined at Westlake by Kleiner Perkins COO Scott Ryles, who is taking up the same position at the new VC shop. 

The combination of $320 million and three big names from the biotech and VC communities means Westlake has instantly established itself as a notable organization, particularly in its home city of Los Angeles, which previously lacked a fund of that size. Seidenberg thinks Los Angeles and biotech more broadly is ready for such a fund.

“This was the ideal time—both in my role at Kleiner Perkins and given the explosive growth of breakthroughs in science and medicine—to pursue my passion for life sciences and launch a fund with such an exceptional team with whom I’ve worked closely in prior roles,” Seidenberg said in a statement.

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