UPDATED: Third Rock Ventures expands roster with Alnylam's CEO and Genzyme/Sanofi vet

Third Rock Ventures has deepened its bench of industry experts after closing a $516 million fund in March to back biotech and device startups. Alnylam Pharmaceuticals ($ALNY) CEO John Maraganore has joined Third Rock in the advisory role of venture partner, reunited in a way with his former Millennium Pharmaceuticals colleagues who launched the venture firm 6 years ago.

John Maraganore

"It's an advisory role that I'm doing on top of my day job at Alnylam," Maraganore said in an interview with FierceBiotech.

Third Rock, which has offices in Boston and San Francisco, has taken off under the leadership of partners and ex-Millennium executives Mark Levin, Kevin Starr, Bob Tepper and others. The VC group takes a hands-on approach in nurturing young companies at the fore of cutting-edge science, requiring biotech experts from the firm and elsewhere to guide the startups through the early days of defining a direction to pursue and blueprinting a strategy.

With a third fund of more than half of billion dollars, and more than $1.3 billion under management, Third Rock has sought more experts to aid in the expansion of the firm and its investment activities.

In addition to Maraganore, Third Rock has brought on former Genzyme and Sanofi ($SNY) executive James Geraghty as an entrepreneur-in-residence to support Third Rock's investments in rare genetic diseases. Dr. Steven Paul, former president of Eli Lilly's ($LLY) research labs and a member of Alnylam's board of directors, has increased his commitment at Third Rock as a venture partner after helping the firm launch Sage Therapeutics in 2011. Also, Daniel Lynch, the former CEO of ImClone Systems, has changed roles from entrepreneur-in-residence to venture partner.

Kevin Starr

"Fundamentally, we have a very involved method in our company formation process, and we get deeply involved in getting these companies launched, built out, and getting to key inflection points," Third Rock Partner Alexis Borisy said in an interview. "For that we're always looking for spectacular people who can be part of the Third Rock team, that can help us do that better and bring their experiences and perspectives."

Borisy joined Third Rock in 2009 as an entrepreneur-in-residence to start Foundation Medicine, having previously founded CombinatoRx, and he quickly transitioned to full partner status at the VC firm in 2010 to lead investments from its second fund. He is now one of 11 partners and serves as interim CEO of Third Rock-backed Warp Drive Bio.

Maraganore, who joined Cambridge, MA-based Alnylam in 2002 to helm the company's pioneering work in RNA interference therapies, was previously a senior vice president of strategic product development at Millennium, where he worked with several of Third Rock's founding partners. Third Rock Partner Kevin Starr, who also serves as a director of Alnylam, worked with Maraganore previously at Biogen Idec ($BIIB). Maraganore looks forward to working with his long-time industry allies.

"I can't think of any other venture firm right now that is as engaged as Third Rock in leading the formation of a whole new wave of innovative companies," Maraganore told FierceBiotech. "In this era where there's a compression in capital available for great new ideas, it's refreshing to see Third Rock out there investing in the future of this industry."

- here's the release

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Editor's note: This article has been updated with comments from Third Rock's Alexis Borisy.