Versant plots Basel expansion as incubator hits full capacity

Versant Ventures has outlined plans to expand its biotech incubator in Basel, Switzerland. Having set up shop in 2017, the 40-scientist incubator is now operating at full capacity, leading Versant to outline plans to expand the laboratories.

Ridgeline, the name of the Basel incubator, is part of the global infrastructure Versant established to help entrepreneurs get new biotechs off the ground. Like its sibling sites in North America, Ridgeline gives entrepreneurs access to scientists and wet labs capable of carrying out drug discovery work and translational research such as medicinal chemistry, DMPK, biology and proteomics.

The Basel site, which is located near Novartis and Roche, now houses 40 scientists and has given rise to three biotechs, with Versant set to take the wraps off Monte Rosa and Bright Peak in the next few months. 

With multiple projects at Ridgeline advancing in parallel, the site is now running at capacity. Versant responded to hitting the ceiling by committing to the expansion of Ridgeline, reflecting the growing importance of the site to the VC shop. Ridgeline and its sibling sites in North America now account for more than 30% of Versant’s investments. 

The expansion will set Versant up to increase the number of scientists at the site to 60 by 2022. For some projects, Versant will task these scientists with taking the molecules forward. In other cases, Versant will spin the projects out of Ridgeline to create independent companies and put dedicated management in place at an early stage. 

Versant disclosed news of the expansion alongside details of multiple personnel changes. In Europe, Alex Mayweg, the former global head of medicinal chemistry at Roche, won promotion to the post of managing director based in Basel. Mayweg secured the promotion on the strength of his leadership of Ridgeline.

Markus Warmuth, who has been involved with Ridgeline, particularly Monte Rosa, has joined Versant as a venture partner based out of Boston. Monte Rosa, which is led by Warmuth, is set to relocate to Boston later in the year to continue its research into currently undruggable cancer targets.

Versant has also made a hire to support its third Ridgeline biotech, Bright Peak, recruiting former MorphoSys chief scientific officer Markus Enzelberger to help with the launch of the startup. The role will also give Enzelberger a chance to work with other new Ridgeline biotechs.

Elsewhere, Tom Woiwode has moved back to the West Coast after a decade getting Versant’s Basel operation up and running, and Max Eisenberg has joined the San Francisco team as general counsel. Versant also disclosed that Richard Glynne has taken up the CSO post at Inception Therapeutics and that Marcelo Bigal is now serving as CEO of Ventus Therapeutics.