VC Startup Westlake Village BioPartners Launches With Amgen Vets, $320 Million Fund

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There is a new player in the southern California biotech industry. New venture firm Westlake Village BioPartners launched with a $320 million fund and a leadership well familiar with the ins and outs of the biotech and pharma world.

Westlake Village BioPartners is helmed by Sean Harper, currently the head of research and development at Amgen, and Beth Seidenberg, a general partner at Kleiner Perkins and former chief medical officer and head of global development at Amgen. The two will lead the new venture capital group’s investment activities. Harper is expected to move to his new role with Westlake Village by January 2018. He announced his departure from Amgen in July. Scott Ryles, who is the chief operating officer at Kleiner Perkins, will be Westlake’s chief operating officer.

The launch of Westlake will make it the first-of-its-kind in the Los Angeles area. Westlake believes its presence in the City of Angels will help kick-start a new hub of scientific innovation across the area.

In its coming-out announcement, Westlake said its approach to working with companies is based on Seidenberg’s “successful track record in venture investing.” Since 2006, she has been in on the ground floor of investing in multiple startups. Some of the companies she has helped incubate include ARMO, Arresto, Atara, Cell Design LabsiPierian, Epizyme, Flexus, Tesaro and True North.

The new VC will focus its investments on early-stage opportunities and incubating companies, it said in an announcement. Westlake intends to match the “best entrepreneurial talent with promising, carefully-selected technologies from academia, companies, or de novo assets with breakthrough potential.” Westlake will not overlook later-stage companies. The new VC firm said it will also make some select investments in those in order to create a diversified portfolio.

With numerous breakthroughs in science and medicine, Seidenberg said this was the “ideal time” to launch the Westlake fund. She noted she was pleased to be working with people she knew from her time at Amgen.

“Sean and I have known each other for more than 20 years and bring unique insights and expertise from our time in the drug discovery and development industry, providing the perfect shared history upon which to build Westlake. We look forward to sharing more information about the fund and our investment priorities in the coming months,” Seidenberg said in a statement.

In addition to her time at Amgen, Seidenberg has also had leadership roles at Bristol-Myers Squibb and Merck Research Laboratories. She joined Kleiner Perkins in 2005.

During his tenure at Amgen, Harper has helped develop and launch 14 products, including Prolia, Repatha, Blincyto and Aimovig.

Ryles has been chief operating officer of Kleiner Perkins since 2014, and previously was the CEO of two Kleiner Perkins portfolio companies.

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