Versant Ventures Strengthens Global Team to Launch New $400M Fund

SAN FRANCISCO & NEW YORK & TORONTO & MONTREAL & VANCOUVER & BASEL - Jan 12, 2017 -(BUSINESS WIRE)- Versant Ventures today announced several Investment Team appointments in preparation for the launch of its newest fund.

Mary Haak-Frendscho, Ph.D., has been appointed to Venture Partner based in Toronto. Mary joined Versant in 2016 as CEO of the Blueline Bioscience discovery engine based at the MaRs center in Toronto’s Discovery District. Mary brings more than 25 years of proven industry and entrepreneurial experience to support Versant’s goal of building a world-class Canadian biotech portfolio in partnership with academics and entrepreneurs throughout the country.

She currently serves on the board of directors of Versant-backed Northern Biologics based in Toronto. Mary previously served as CEO at Igenica, chairman of Compugen, president and CSO of Takeda SF USA, and held R&D leadership roles at Genentech, Abgenix and XOMA. She holds degrees from the University of Michigan, Washington University, Stony Brook University and the University of Wisconsin.

Since establishing Canadian operations, Versant has become the most active biotech start-up investor in the country, having enabled cumulative investments of more than $500 million from Versant, co-investors and pharmaceutical partners in five series A companies over the past three years, including BlueRock Therapeutics and Inception 4 (both partnered with Bayer), Northern Biologics and Inception IBD (both partnered with Celgene), and Turnstone Biologics.

Bayer and Versant Ventures Join Forces to Launch Stem Cell Therapy Company BlueRock Therapeutics with USD 225 Million Series A Financing

LEVERKUSEN, BOSTON, NEW YORK, TORONTO, and KYOTO, Dec. 12, 2016 /CNW/ - Bayer AG and Versant Ventures today announced the launch of BlueRock Therapeutics, a next-generation regenerative medicine company that plans to develop best-in-class induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) therapies to cure a range of diseases using an industry-leading platform. BlueRock Therapeutics will be led by a world-class team and has assembled its platform through a series of strategic partnerships with academia and industry.

To enable BlueRock Therapeutics' platform and pipeline, Bayer and Versant are committing USD 225 million, representing one of the largest-ever series A financings for a biotech company. The funds are projected to give BlueRock Therapeutics at least four years of runway and will allow the new company to advance a number of programs into the clinic, with an initial focus on cardiovascular diseases and neurodegenerative disorders.

"Accessing cell based therapies is part of Bayer's strategy. We are launching this enterprise to develop transformative and curative therapies for patients based on the latest stem cell technology," said Kemal Malik, member of the Board of Management of Bayer AG and responsible for Innovation. "We have partnered with Versant Ventures to build a leading player in this field by securing exclusive access to these breakthrough technologies for BlueRock Therapeutics."

Versant Ventures Strengthens Global Team

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – April 12, 2016 – Versant Ventures, a leading global healthcare venture capital firm, today announced promotions and an addition to its investment team, as well as appointments at its discovery engines in Toronto and New York City. Versant promoted Jerel Davis to Managing Director and Carlo Rizzuto to Partner. The firm also hired Luca Santarelli as Venture Partner. The firm’s Toronto-based discovery engine Blueline Bioscience appointed Mary Haak-Frendscho as CEO and New York City-based Highline Therapeutics added CSO Joe Vacca and Operating Partner Paul Sekhri. “These leadership additions will be critical to our global biotech investment strategy and the firm’s company creation efforts,” said Brad Bolzon, Managing Director, Versant Ventures. “Jerel and Carlo are proven entrepreneurs and investors who have collectively been involved in 20 Versant investments across multiple areas of innovation. The additions of Luca, Mary, Joe and Paul will strengthen our global operating capabilities in diverse geographies including Basel, Toronto and New York.” 

Blueline Bioscience announces milestone achievement by all Blueline Drug Target Program grant winners

TORONTO, ON - January 6, 2016 - Blueline Bioscience, a Canadian biotechnology incubator based in Toronto's MaRS Discovery District and backed by venture capital firm Versant Ventures, today announced the first milestone achievement by all six of the Blueline Drug Target Program (BDTP) 2015 grant competition award winners. The competition provided a unique opportunity for academic researchers with novel drug targets and mechanisms of action to collaborate with Blueline towards the goal of translating their research discoveries into high impact therapeutics.

Selected from over 180 applications and more than 40 Canadian research institutes, the six BDTP principal investigators collaborated with Blueline to fine-tune their 12-18 month research plans. The first milestone of each plan consisted of feasibility studies to test key hypotheses. The milestone achievements announced today unlock the second tranche of funding to support proof of concept studies defined in their plans. Once completed, promising programs will be positioned for future company creation and venture capital investment.

Turnstone Biologics Completes Series A Financing Led by Versant

TORONTO, ON - October 28, 2015 - Turnstone Biologics Inc. (“Turnstone” or the “Company”) announced the completion of an $11.3 million Series A financing round led by Versant Ventures (“Versant”) with follow-on capital committed in excess of $20.0 million. The investment has enabled the Company to appoint Sammy J. Farah, MBA, PhD as Chief Executive Officer and Brian D. Lichty, PhD as Chief Technology Officer. Turnstone is focused on developing novel oncolytic viral immunotherapies, and proceeds of the announced financing will allow the Company to expand development of its product portfolio. The first of Turnstone’s programs is currently in Phase I/II trials in patients with advanced or metastatic solid tumours. Founding investor FACIT also participated in the round.

Northern Biologics and Celgene enter strategic collaboration

TORONTO, ON – April 29, 2015 – Northern Biologics Inc., a privately held biotechnology company backed by Versant Ventures, today announced an exclusive, strategic collaboration with Celgene Corporation.  As part of the collaboration, Northern Biologics received a US$30 million upfront cash payment. It will use the funds to discover and develop first-in-class therapeutic antibodies, and will have the right to receive additional future payments that support the advancement of its portfolio.

Collaboration between Versant Ventures and leading Canadian research institutes spawns new biotech company

TORONTO, ON - December 10, 2014 – Blueline Bioscience (Blueline), a Canadian biotechnology incubator based in Toronto’s Discovery District and backed by venture capital firm Versant Ventures, today announced its first spin-out biotech company. Northern Biologics is one of the first investments from Versant’s newly closed Fund V, with a $10 million Series A financing committed earlier this year. Under an existing agreement with Blueline, Celgene Corporation has the right to negotiate an R&D collaboration with Northern Biologics, under which additional upfront capital and undisclosed future payments would be provided to the company.

Blueline Bioscience launches grant program to advance novel drug targets

TORONTO, ON - July 21, 2014 - Blueline Bioscience, a Versant Ventures incubator, has launched a call for proposals for a unique Canadian grant program. The Blueline Drug Target Program will provide up to $150,000 per project to advance the validation of novel drug targets from Canadian academic research institutes. The program provides an opportunity for collaboration between academic researchers and Blueline's team of drug discovery experts, biotechnology entrepreneurs, and venture capital investors. Over the 12 month duration of each funded project, Blueline will advise funded teams on the design of research plans to rigorously evaluate the therapeutic potential of novel targets.

U.S. based Versant Ventures expands into Canada

TORONTO, ON - December 11, 2013 - Versant Ventures, a U.S.-based life sciences venture capital firm, is expanding operations into Canada. The firm plans toinvest in early-stage drug discovery programs and establish new life science companies in Toronto.

“We are investing in Canada to develop early-stage companies because we believe there is a strong combination of drug discovery talent as well as leading academic research across the country,’ said Dr. Brad Bolzon , managing director of Versant Ventures. “Our firm has a track record of investing in early-stage research as well as partnering with global pharmaceutical companies to launch novel therapeutics companies. We want to accelerate the creation of new biotech companies that can flourish here.”

Versant Ventures' New Biotechnology Incubator, Blueline Bioscience, Announces Collaboration in Canada

TORONTO, ON - November 20, 2013 - Blueline Bioscience, a Toronto-based biotech incubator launched by Versant Ventures in September of this year, today announced a collaboration with Celgene. Blueline Bioscience is headquartered in the MaRS Discovery District of Toronto and works closely with leading academic and medical research centers in Canada to develop, fund, and grow early-stage biotechnology companies.

Upon launch of new enterprises by Blueline Bioscience in areas of joint strategic interest such as oncology and inflammation, an affiliate of Celgene Corporation will have certain option rights through the collaboration.

Stefan Larson, President of Blueline Bioscience and an Entrepreneur-in-Residence with Versant Ventures, stated: "We're excited to be tapping into a wealth of medical discoveries that we can work to translate from the laboratory into biotechnology products and companies. With the collaboration and option agreement now signed with Celgene, Blueline Bioscience is uniquely positioned in the life sciences community in Ontario."