PureTech bumps its early life science funds up to $107M

Not quite a venture firm, research institute or startup, PureTech is a bit of all three. The mission of the early stage research company just got a little bit easier--it bumped up its recent fundraising to $107 million from the $57 million it had raised as of October.

PureTech is a dedicated life sciences R&D house that is structured as a corporation and develops its various research programs around specific, larger themes. It's agnostic when it comes to technology; the programs are built around these ideas.

Daphne Zohar

Currently, top-of-mind broad areas of interest include the brain, including noninvasive neuromodulation, the immune system, the microbiome and metabolism, PureTech Founder and Managing Director Daphne Zohar told FierceMedicalDevices.

Unlike many early life sciences investors, PureTech isn't deterred by medical devices.

"We have a number of programs with drug-like potential, but they just happen to be devices," Zohar said. She chalks up what sometimes amounts to a lack of device innovation to the affinity of many companies with the 510(k) process, which relies on predicates and results in "stacked products" that are similar to what's been dubbed "me-too drugs" in biopharma. She suggested that medical devices as a sector are where biotech was in 2009, poised to achieve a real breakthrough but not quite there yet.

"With more innovative, big market approaches, I see no reason that devices can't be just as big an opportunity as drugs. I look forward to a renaissance in devices," said Zohar. She sees the rapid emergence of digital health and the entrance of non-traditional companies and investors into the device world as game-changing. "Apple, Google, Samsung are redefining what it means to be a medical device."

PureTech has 12 pipeline programs and an additional three active sourcing initiatives that could get to that stage. Each of the programs is structured as an independent corporate entity, in which PureTech usually has majority ownership.

These include Gelesis, which has a weight loss pill that swells in the stomach; Tal Medical, with a fast-acting neuromodulator for depression; and Akili Interactive Labs, which is developing a platform for remotely diagnosing and treating cognitive disorders. Tal is a 2014 Fierce 15 company.

In addition to Zohar, PureTech founders and managing directors include MIT professor and biotech entrepreneur Robert Langer and John LaMattina, the former head of R&D for Pfizer ($PFE).

PureTech's companies have gone on to attract hundreds of millions in additional funding from other sources. In addition, its deep-pocketed investors, including Invesco Perpetual along with strategic investors and endowments, have already committed to putting into as much as $50 million of additional financing as co-investors into each program.

Already, PureTech has invested in two new, undisclosed programs from the new financing: one a digital health device and another in early childhood nutrition. The firm will start two to four new programs a year, Zohar said. She said they currently have five projects with human proof-of-concept that are ready to be advanced into full programs.

On PureTech's model, Zohar concluded, "We house them into companies and treat them like our pipeline. We don't want to exit the ones that are doing really well, like a biotech wouldn't look to sell off things that are attractive."

- here is the release

Special Report: FierceMedicalDevices' 2014 Fierce 15