Where Are They Now? Top 3 Biotech Startups From NextGen Bio Class of 2018
Every year, BioSpace analyzes the biotech industry, looking for the hot new biotech startups to watch. We then produce the NextGen Bio “Class of…,” twenty companies ranked based on several categories, including Finance, Collaborations, Pipeline, and Innovation. The companies were typically launched no more than 18 months before the list was created.
We thought it would be insightful to look back at our previous lists to see where some of those companies are today. Here’s a look at the top three companies from the “Top 20 Life Science Startups to Watch in 2018.”
#1. BlueRock Therapeutics. Founded in 2016, BlueRock was #1 on our list of companies to watch in 2018. With facilities in Ontario, Canada; Cambridge, Massachusetts; and New York, New York, BlueRock launched in December 2016 with a $225 million Series A financing led by Bayer AG and Versant Ventures. The company focuses on cell therapies to regenerate heart muscle in patients who have had a heart attack or chronic heart failure, as well as therapies for patients with Parkinson’s disease.
In October 2017, BlueRock and Seattle-based Universal Cells entered into a collaboration and license deal to create induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell lines that can be used in the manufacture of allogeneic cellular therapies. Shortly afterwards, the company established its corporate headquarters in Cambridge, and in April 2018, established a research-and-development hub in New York City, as well as formalizing a sponsored research collaboration with the Center for Stem Cell Biology at Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) Cancer Center. The collaboration focuses on translating Kettering’s expertise in creating multiple types of authentic neural cells from stem cells to address diseases of the central and peripheral nervous system. BlueRock also received $1 million from the State of New York and Empire State Development under its economic development initiatives program.
In April 2019, BlueRock partnered with Editas Medicine (which was on BioSpace’s NextGen Bio Class of 2015 list) to combine their genome editing and cell therapy technologies to focus on novel engineered cell medicines. Part of the deal was to collaborate on creating novel, allogeneic pluripotent cell lines using a combination of Editas’ CRISPR genome editing technology and BlueRock’s iPSC platform.
And finally, in August 2019, Bayer AG acquired BlueRock for the remaining stake in the company for about $240 million in cash and an additional $360 million in pre-defined development milestones.
#2. Prelude Fertility. Prelude Fertility is a bit of an outlier from the typical BioSpace NextGen company, because it isn’t quite a biopharma company. It is a life sciences company whose business model is aimed at in vitro fertilization and egg freezing. It was founded with a $200 million investment by entrepreneur Martin Varsavsky. The investment was in the largest in vitro fertilization clinic in the Southeast, Reproductive Biology Associates of Atlanta, and its affiliate, My Egg Bank, the largest frozen donor egg bank in the U.S.
Since then it has expanded in various parts of the country, including adding San Francisco-based Pacific Fertility Center (PFC) to its network in September 25, 2017; partnering with Houston Fertility Institute and acquiring Vivere Health; partnering with the Advanced Fertility Center of Chicago; and in October 2018, partnered with NYU Langone Health.
In March 2019, Prelude merged with Inception Fertility to establish the Prelude Network as the fastest-growing network of fertility clinics and largest provider of comprehensive fertility services in the U.S. Inception is acting as the parent company, with the Prelude Network, both having board representatives from the previous organizations.
#3. Relay Therapeutics. Ranking #3 on our list for 2018, Relay Therapeutics launched in September 2016 with a $57 million Series A financing led by Third Rock Ventures with participation form D.E. Shaw Research. On December 14, 2017, it closed on a Series B round worth $63 million, led by BVF Partners, with new investors GV (formerly Google Ventures), Casdin Capital, EcoR1 Capital and Section 32.
The company focuses on the relationship between protein motion and function. It merges computational power with structural biology, biophysics, chemistry and biology. In December 2018, the company completed a $400 million Series C financing. It was led by the SoftBank Vision fund and included additional new investors, Foresite Capital, Perceptive Advisors and Tavistock Group. Existing investors also participated.
The company announced at the time it planned to use the funds to accelerate the implementation of its long-term strategy, expanding its discovery efforts, advancing existing programs into the clinic and improving its platform.