New Enterprise Associates

New Enterprise Associates

Dollars: $189.78 million
Deals: 29
Based: Menlo Park, CA
Website: nea.com
Founded: 1977

Big money. Big firm. Big successes. New Enterprise Associates (NEA) rolled out a $2.6 billion fund last year, with partners from the healthcare practice expected to garner about a third of those dollars to invest in biotech, devices and other life sciences companies. And NEA General Partner David Mott, the former CEO of MedImmune, points out that the firm has been hitting $2 billion-plus in new funds for years.

"We're very active across all stages of development, all geographies, all disciplines," Mott told FierceBiotech recently.

David Mott, general parter

The firm has a track record of backing winners in biopharma. Last year three of the company's biotech portfolio companies completed initial public offerings, and the maiden offerings for Tesaro ($TSRO), Supernus and Hyperion ($HPTX) accounted for 30% of the 10 venture-backed biotech IPOs last year. It's a good thing NEA holds onto shares in its portfolio companies long after they go public. Cancer drug developer Tesaro's shares have climbed more than 60% since the company's public debut in June, and Hyperion's shares have jumped more than 140% since its July IPO.

Hunt down some of the hot spots in the biotech landscape such as rare disease therapies, targeted oncology drugs and antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) and you will find NEA's capital. Last year the firm led a $27 million round for Mersana Therapeutics, which has the capabilities to attach a variety and multiplicity of drug payloads to targeted antibodies for potentially superior ADC therapies. NEA is also backing Prosensa, which has a partnership with GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) on the Dutch startup's closely watched drug for Duchenne muscular dystrophy in Phase III.

At the other end of the spectrum, you'll find NEA money seeding biotech startups. Just this April, the venture group announced it was joining hands with Pfizer ($PFE) to launch a new accelerator designed to spin out some promising new technologies into a portfolio of rare-disease drug developers.   

Yet partners are suspicious of fad trends. Mott, for example, survived the genomics bubble more than a decade ago and went on to sell MedImmune to AstraZeneca ($AZN) for more than $15 billion. After seeing so many biotech operations flop during the heady genomics craze, he ardently avoids miracle stories in favor of realistic growth prospects for companies such as Tesaro.

NEA General Partner James Barrett is another top VC player and was one of the few biotech players on Forbes' Midas List of venture standouts last year. 

Sure, there have been some losing bets along the way. The Boston-area biotech Peptimmune, for instance, tanked after multiple rounds of financing from NEA and others. Yet the VC giants can take a flesh wound or two without slowing down. Sadly, smaller venture teams have been unable to recover from lost biotech bets.

"Unfortunately, healthcare investing and biopharma investing have seen a real decrease overall capital availability over the past three to 5 years," Mott told FierceBiotech last year. "The good news from NEA's perspective is we have the same amount available as we did 5 years ago."

Special Report: Peptimmune - The 2011 Biotech Graveyard

For more:
NEA, Pfizer build a launch pad for a portfolio of orphan-drug biotechs
NEA provides $10M to help fuel next-gen cancer R&D at Cleave
NEA's David Mott on what VC firm's $2.6B fund means for biotech

-- Ryan McBride (email | Twitter)

New Enterprise Associates
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