New $300 Million Venture Fund is Aimed at ‘Overlooked’ Public Health Challenges

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Backed by Merck, Novartis and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Adjuvant Capital launched a $300 million oversubscribed fund focused on accelerating the development of medical innovations for historically overlooked public health challenges.

The debut fund from Adjuvant will support promising new technologies for indications that the venture capital industry has largely ignored, the group announced this morning. Some of the global threats the fund could look to address include diseases like malaria, shigella, hookworm, tuberculosis and Lassa fever. Glenn Rockman, managing partner at Adjuvant Capital, said these diseases have largely been ignored by Wall Street and Silicon Valley, despite their widespread threat across the globe.

“As viruses like Ebola, Zika, and SARS-CoV-2 have clearly demonstrated, wealthy countries are vulnerable to these pathogens as well. Our new fund will finance cutting-edge research so we are better prepared for threats old and new alike, with the ultimate goal of saving or improving millions of lives by bringing urgently-needed drugs, vaccines, diagnostics, and medical devices to market,” Rockman said in a statement.

When Adjuvant invests in a company, there are some strings attached to the funds. Primarily, each investment includes commitments that will make any commercialized products broadly accessible to underserved populations in low- and middle-income countries. Funds from Adjuvant’s debut fund have already been used to back 14 different companies that are developing technologies and therapeutics for a range of serious indications, including the infectious disease melioidosis, also known as Whitmore’s disease, which is primarily a disease in tropical climates.

Other disease areas being explored by these companies include rabies, yellow fever, group B streptococcus, non-hormonal contraception, chikungunya, herpes, respiratory syncytial virus, HIV and COVID-19.

The companies Adjuvant is investing in are spread across the globe, from the United States, to China, to Africa. Among the companies to receive financing are New York-based Codagenix, which is using computational biology to "rationally design" vaccines for intractable public health challenges; Lagos-based 54gene, which is using Pan-African genetic data to drive discoveries in drug and vaccine development; and, China’s Yisheng Biopharma, which is addressing chronic supply issues in the rabies vaccine market.

“Accelerating the widespread availability of emerging public health innovations is a smart business decision that has the potential to benefit millions of people, especially women and girls, in low-income countries," Jenny Yip, managing partner at Adjuvant Capital said in a statement. “We firmly believe that our investment model represents an innovative way to benefit both our investors and society at large.”

In addition to Merck, Novartis and the Gates Foundation, other investors in Adjuvant’s fund include IFC, Children's Investment Fund Foundation, Dalio Philanthropies, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, ELMA Investments Ltd., Ford Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, Global Health Investment Corporation, CDC Group, Anthos Fund & Asset Management, and other unnamed contributors.

Lutz Hegemann, Group Head for Corporate Affairs & Global Health at Novartis, said investing in the Adjuvant Fund is part of the Swiss pharma giant’s “holistic global health strategy.” The company is committed to bringing treatments to as many people as possible, Hegemann said, and said the investment in Adjuvant Capital complements those efforts.

Julie Louise Gerberding, Chief Patient Officer for Strategic Communications, Global Public Policy and Population Health at Merck, echoed those sentiments. She said Merck's investment in Adjuvant's new fund demonstrates the company’s commitment to “impact investing as a creative and sustainable approach to improve healthcare for underserved populations globally.

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