Northern Biologics Launches With $10 Million In Pocket

Published: Dec 10, 2014

Northern Biologics Launches With $10 Million In Pocket
December 10, 2014
By Riley McDermid, Breaking News Sr. Editor

Canadian incubator Blueline Bioscience has created its first spinout company, Northern Biologics, and will be hring at least 20 people in the Toronto area by the end of 2015, the company said Wednesday.

Blueline created Northern with the money from $10 million Series A financing from Versant's newly closed Fund V received earlier this year. Blueline has also inked a research and development deal with biotech behemoth Celgene, which will provide additional capital in an undisclosed amount.

As part of the deal, Stefan Larson, entrepreneur-in-residence with Versant Ventures, will serve as the company's CEO, and Jeanne Magram, former site head for Pfizer's Center for Therapeutic Innovations in New York, will join as chief scientific officer.

Toronto-based Blueline created Northern Biologics in June in tandem with University of Toronto (U of T) and University Health Network's Princess Margaret Cancer Centre (UHN), both of which have licensed intellectual property to the firm, including drug leads and a novel antibody generation platform.

Northern’s management said its main priorities over the next two years will be the recruitment of its scientific team and successfully shepherding its first drug candidates into human clinical trials. The company is already in active recruitment and expects to have a team of at least 20 people in place by the end of 2015.

"The more people we can have working on targeted therapies, the more quickly we will be able to have a significant impact on patient outcomes," noted Christopher Paige, vice president of research at UHN. "Patients expect us to be working in partnership, and Northern Biologics is a prime example of collaborative success."

Northern said Wednesday that it will now focus its funding on growing its oncology and and fibrosis therapies as it attempts to take on much larger companies in a crowded and competitive antibodies market.

“Antibodies and other medical products from biological sources play an expanding, revolutionary role as alternatives to small molecule drugs by treating disease in a more targeted way and reducing side effects," said Peter Lewis, interim vice president of Research and Innovation at U of T. "Northern Biologics is a prime example of the way in which cross-collaboration works to advance and ultimately commercialize the innovative science that is happening in Canadian laboratories."

Teaming of with Versant appears to be a strategic move designed to help Northern move closer to eventually going public. Since its creation in 1999, nearly 40 Versant companies have achieved successful acquisitions or IPOs, and Versant has $1.9 billion under management and offices in North America and Europe.

“We continue to be impressed by the innovative healthcare investment opportunities we see in Canada," said Versant Partner Jerel Davis. "Versant believes in investing in early stage companies with robust discovery platforms and portfolios, and our investment in Northern Biologics will fund the advancement of several assets in parallel."

Larson agreed with Davis and said he looked forward to guiding the company forward.

"Northern Biologics is a great example of the kind of exciting and innovative early-stage company we can build when world-class science comes together with entrepreneurial and seasoned venture capital investors," said Larson, who notes that close collaboration between venture capital and academic institutions is still rare in Canada. "We are now in a position to rapidly advance several potential new antibody therapies toward the clinic."

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