Boston VC Firm Atlas Venture Set Sights on Biotech Startups With $280 Million Fund and New Home

Published: Apr 17, 2015

Boston VC Firm Atlas Venture Set Sights on Biotech Startups With $280 Million Fund and New Home
April 17, 2015
By Riley McDermid, Breaking News Sr. Editor

Cambridge, Mass.-based Atlas Venture has closed on its 10th fund for a whopping $280 million, money it will use to invest in around a dozen new companies in the biotech and life sciences arena. The amount was far more than the $250 million the firm originally asked for and a sign that its move to split into two companies has not deferred investors interested in the white-hot early-stage biotech ecosystem.

The VC shop also welcomed Ommer Chohan, formerly CFO at Summerhill Ventures in Toronto, as its new chief financial officer. Atlas is well known for its biotech successes, including Stromedix, which exited to Biogen, Inc. in 2012 for over $500 million, and Zafgen, which raised $110 million for its June IPO last summer.

In a blog post early Friday, Atlas Partner Bruce Booth said the company’s Atlas X fund will be used to stake around 12 new companies, which are separate from the six currently “embedded” with Atlas at their new 12,000 square foot headquarters at 400 Technology Square in Cambridge.

“This $280 million fund was significantly oversubscribed, and we closed at our ‘hard cap,’” wrote Booth. “We had great existing LP support, with 75 percent of the committed capital coming from prior fund investors, and added a number of important new ones to our LP roster.”

Booth added he was excited about both the new digs and Chohan’s addition, saying “[Chohan] started with us last week, bringing a strong experience set in venture finance and operations.”

“We are just steps away from great academic institutions like the Broad, Whitehead, Picowar, and Koch, as well as the MIT and Harvard campuses,” wrote Booth. “We’re also surrounded by large biopharma companies, such as Novartis AG , Amgen , Biogen, Takeda Pharmaceuticals , Pfizer Inc. , Merck & Co. , and Sanofi, and hundreds of emerging biotechs. And we’re a stone’s throw up Main Street from startup shops like LabCentral and the CIC.”

Booth told the Boston Business Journal in an interview that the flat layout of the new site is perfect for its start-up mentality, which encourage debate and interaction.

“It’s relatively unusual and an important part of our organization,” he said. “It creates the right kind of culture to debate ideas.”

Atlas has also been involved in the movement to bring new life to old drugs, a massive revolution happening right now as novel science returns to a biotech community that had almost give up on the idea.

Atlas Venture, for instance, formed Arteaus Therapeutics in 2011 to take a molecule from Eli Lilly and Company for migraines, generate proof of concept, and sell it back,” wrote Ben Fidler, a columnist at Xconomy.

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