Third Rock closes $616M life sciences fund, takes on ex-Eleven Bio CEO

Third Rock's Alexis Borisy

Healthcare investment firm Third Rock Ventures has closed its “Fund IV,” raising $616 million in what was an oversubscribed fund, as it also bolsters its team with Novartis ($NVS) and Eleven Biotherapeutics ($EBIO) alumni Abbie Celniker.

With this its fourth fund, seeing it now having raised $1.9 billion in total over the years, the money will be invested into “creating innovative healthcare companies,” although as always with these funds, details on its exact plans were not forthcoming. Its latest fund is $100 million more than its last effort, Fund III, which closed back in 2013. 

The firm does however have form on stumping up cash for startups and biotechs working in oncology, immunology, neurological disorders, cardiovascular disease and rare genetic diseases.

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It typically gets heavily involved in creating new biotechs, most recently seeing Third Rock partner Alexis Borisy become the interim CEO at cancer upstart Relay Therapeutics after emerging from stealth mode in the summer.

As well as its new cash pot, Third Rock has also hired industry vet Abbie Celniker, ex-CEO of Third Rock portfolio company Eleven Biotherapeutics, as a partner, with a slate of promotions also coming from within the firm, including Charles Homcy, who also is now a partner (after previously being a venture partner).

“Without a doubt, people are the most important asset in our efforts, and I am incredibly proud of all that our team has accomplished to date,” said Borisy.

“We are thrilled today to welcome Abbie and Charles as partners. Many of us have had the pleasure of working with them previously and know their insight and expertise will be invaluable as we continue to work collectively to translate the unprecedented level of innovation emerging from academia and industry to our company creation efforts.”

Speaking to FierceBiotech, I asked why, after Eleven Bio, what made her decide to join Third Rock, and not another biotech? Are there also plans for her to become an interim CEO of a Third Rock-based company in the future?

"After having had the privilege of being the CEO of two different start up biotechs, Taligen and Eleven, I knew that I wanted to expand the scope of the therapeutic areas and technologies that I would work on," she said.

"Venture seemed the best way to do that, and the focus at Third Rock of company building through our discover, launch, build process was the best fit for me. I am passionate about building the teams that will discover and develop the best new treatments for patients, and look forward to going into our companies as an interim CEO and advisor to help make this happen. I am equally as excited about being a part of the TRV team as we work to develop Third Rock to continue to create companies for many funds to come!"

I asked whether there remains a strong appetite for investment in life sciences, given a troubled 2016 in terms of politics, pricing and a few high end failures from a number of biotechs that could scare of those seeking to invest in the sector.

“The appetite does remain strong,” she explained. “We are seeing steady early stage funding as well as later stage financings. People in biotech and pharma understand the inherent risks associated with drug discovery and development and everyone is anxious to see continued innovation in areas of high unmet need.

"We are seeing an uptick in M&A as larger biotechs and pharma are trying to keep their pipelines filled and we are still seeing high quality IPOs. Pricing questions are being addressed by helping all stakeholders understand the value that novel therapies provide and the impact that these drugs have on the lives of patients.”

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