Flagship banks $537M to back the next batch of biotechs

Noubar Afeyan

Biotech VC stalwart Flagship Ventures put together a $537 million new fund, its largest ever, with eyes on a new generation of life sciences upstarts.

The Cambridge, MA, firm raised an up-sized purse after pulling off an impressive string of exits that includes 8 successful IPOs over the last 24 months. Among Flagship's recent bets are the CRISPR biotech Editas Medicine, RNA pioneer Moderna Therapeutics and gene-switching outfit Syros Pharmaceuticals, high-profile innovators the firm believes can shake up the healthcare space.

Now Flagship is on the lookout for the next crop of early-stage disrupters, focusing on both existing organizations and promising ideas that can be built into nimble startups.

"We closed this fund with nearly twice the amount of capital we had initially sought, and in record time," Flagship CEO Noubar Afeyan said in a statement. "The strong interest from new and existing limited partners is a meaningful endorsement of our unique approach."

That approach relies in part on VentureLabs, Flagship's in-house startup machine devoted to finding first-in-class technology and assembling teams around it. With the new fund, Flagship believes it can launch as many as 5 new companies a year from here on out, all the while making bets on established players.

As evidenced by its track record in the IPO market, Flagship has been a particular beneficiary of biotech's current virtuous cycle. As ever, Big Pharma has wide gaps in its pipeline and needs biotech's help, but the enthusiastic reception for drug developers on Wall Street has provided both a near-term liquidity option for investors and a lever for boosting the valuations of startups and their assets. That's allowed smart betters like Flagship to quickly return cash to their limited partners, easing the process of amassing new war chests.

The new fund, Flagship's 5th, is the biggest since its 2000 foundation and follows a $269 million sum closed in 2010.

- read the statement

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