Versant’s Black Diamond raises $85M, plots transatlantic move

Versant Ventures’ Black Diamond Therapeutics has raised $85 million (€74 million). The series B, which comes weeks after Black Diamond exited stealth mode, tees the allosteric oncogenic mutation specialist up to move two or three candidates into the clinic.

Black Diamond broke cover last month with $20 million in series A money and a platform designed to identify and target allosteric mutant oncogenes. Black Diamond founders David Epstein and Elizabeth Buck designed the platform to unlock the therapeutic potential of oncogenes activated by allosteric mutations, which, unlike kinase domain mutations, are yet to make a mark on cancer care.

If the platform works as Black Diamond hopes, it will generate single molecules capable of treating baskets of mutations previously seen as unactionable from a therapeutic perspective. That concept has caught the attention of some major investors.

New Enterprise Associates and RA Capital Management co-led the series B round, which, when added to the $20 million in series A money provided by Versant last month, brings Black Diamond’s total haul up to $105 million. NexTech Invest, The Invus Group, Perceptive Advisors and Versant also contributed to the series B.

Fueled by the money, Black Diamond plans to move two or three drugs into the clinic over the next two years. Currently, the two most advanced drugs in Black Diamond’s preclinical pipeline target HER2 and EGFR allosteric mutants. Both programs are working toward the IND stage.

A third candidate has cleared lead optimization, while a further two programs are back at the lead identification stage. Black Diamond is yet to disclose the targets of these three earlier-stage assets. 

Black Diamond is the first biotech to emerge from the Ridgeline Discovery Engine Versant set up in Basel, Switzerland, to advance programs originating at European academic centers. However, Black Diamond’s time as a Europe-based company will be brief, as the biotech is set to use some of the series B money to set up a headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

To date, Versant’s Basel-based operation has birthed three companies, the other two being Bright Peak Therapeutics and Monte Rosa Therapeutics. Bright Peak is developing engineered cytokines for immuno-oncology indications, while Monte Rosa is working on cancer drugs that modulate protein degradation pathways.