New Leaf Ventures

New Leaf Ventures

Dollars: $128 million
Deals: 33
Based: Menlo Park, CA
Founded: 2005

In all the years Philippe Chambon had worked venture capital, 2008, for him, was a first.

Chambon is managing director of New Leaf Ventures and the firm had just finished raising a $450 million fund, its second. The market crashed, leading to extreme caution throughout the investment world. And New Leaf refrained from committing any of that money for some time after.

Philippe Chambon

"I have been doing this since 1995. And it is the first fund ever where we had almost a year where we didn't make a single investment," Chambon told FierceBiotech. "We didn't know where the knife would stop falling. We had a new fund and sat on the sidelines until we had a better sense as to where this was all going."

Things were bad for a while after, but Chambon said he sees 2012 as having turned a corner for VC investors. Asked how he viewed the life sciences investment market last year, Chambon said, matter-of-factly: "It is improving … [and] because the public market is doing better everybody feels a bit more positive about the biopharmaceutical sector."

New Leaf has benefited from this trend, he said, with "a series of our companies that are public or have gone public, or may go public in the very near term." One of New Leaf's portfolio companies, Durata Therapeutics ($DRTX), raised $74 million in an IPO last year and is moving ahead with its late-stage antibiotic for skin infections licensed from drug giant Pfizer ($PFE). 

Another portfolio company, Relypsa, pulled in a gigantic $80 million Series C round last August, following a massive $70 million round two years before that. Plans call for using the money to advance development of a new drug to treat hyperkalemia, a condition in which high potassium levels in patients with diabetes, heart failure or kidney disease can lead to lethal arrhythmia. And then there's Intarcia Therapeutics. The young company drew a phenomenal $210 million in new venture financing last November from New Leaf, Venrock and others to back its Phase III program for ITCA 650, a once-yearly injection-free GLP-1 therapy for diabetes. The new funds also helped propel the company's relocation from California to metro Boston.

While biopharmaceutical financing has blossomed again, things remained more cautious for New Leaf's medical device and med tech investments in 2012. New Leaf, Kleiner Perkins, Avalon Ventures and others participated in Awarepoint's $14 million investment last June, helping to advance its expansion of radiofrequency tracking devices for hospitals. And earlier this year, portfolio company (and 2012 Fierce 15 winner) CardioKinetix raised $23 million to balance out a $44 million Series E round to fund continued testing of its second-generation Parachute Ventricular Partitioning Device for heart failure.

Chambon explained that New Leaf is particularly focused right now on healthcare IT. But it remains "much more opportunistic" on the device and diagnostics side of things, with an eye toward more stable, later-stage opportunities.

"We want to be very careful about the risk we take, both from the regulatory and reimbursement perspective," he noted. "We are really looking for [device and diagnostics] companies at the revenue stage, and are in the process of ramping up revenues."

Don't expect New Leaf to raise a new fund in 2013, either. Chambon told us the firm is still finishing its second, thanks to the delays it faced in 2008.

For more:
Little Durata's relocation plans reap incentives with big staffing promises
Relypsa completes $80M round as it preps pivotal heart study
Intarcia raises $210M for PhIII, once-yearly diabetes drug
Awarepoint snags $14M to expand wireless tracking in hospitals
CardioKinetix will use $23M round to propel EU heart failure device launch

-- Mark Hollmer (email | Twitter)

New Leaf Ventures

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