In December 2016, BlueRock came out of stealth mode with a $225 million Series A round led by Versant and Bayer. Using this financing, the company expanded its ranks with an experienced R&D team of more than 100 scientists, refined process development and manufacturing capabilities to efficiently engineer and produce cell therapies at commercial scale, and advanced a portfolio across selected cardiology, immunology and neurology indications. The pipeline includes a promising treatment for Parkinson’s disease expected to enter the clinic by year end.
Under the terms of today’s transaction, Bayer will acquire the shares in BlueRock it did not already own for about $600 million, including about $240 million up front and up to $360 million in potential preclinical and early clinical milestone payments. Versant held more than 40% ownership in the company.
“The BlueRock transaction reinforces our current approach to early identification of emerging science that can be assimilated and nurtured within our firm or one of our global discovery engines while we prepare to formally launch a start-up,” said Brad Bolzon, Ph.D., managing director and chairman at Versant and BlueRock board director. “Our best investments often combine assets, talent and capabilities from multiple geographies. BlueRock is no exception, as it blended science, leadership and operations across Canada and the U.S.”
“Prioritization of regenerative medicine as a new frontier for investment allowed us to develop a position in a new field with two to three years of lead time. The hope is to produce revolutionary therapeutics that can reverse degenerative diseases,” added Jerel Davis, Ph.D., managing director at Versant and BlueRock board director. “We established a Canadian presence to identify the untapped world-class innovation within key research centers across the country. It is gratifying to see this kind of external recognition by a leading pharmaceutical company such as Bayer.”
Versant’s track record of forming successful start-ups across multiple geographies is linked to an ability to leverage its experience and infrastructure with in-house models, including de novo company creation and incubation of newcos within its discovery engine laboratories. Furthermore, financing models range from traditional venture syndication to strategic Pharma investments, providing dual paths to liquidity through the public markets and Pharma acquisition. While methods vary, the common theme is a forward-looking focus on cutting-edge scientific fields such as cell therapy, regenerative medicine, precision medicine, gene editing and gene therapy.
“Constructing early stage biotech portfolios from promising yet unproven areas of scientific innovation has taught us to be flexible about how we form, finance and exit companies,” said Dr. Bolzon. “In the end, the key is to focus on the fundamentals of combining the best ideas, talent, technology, partners and co-investors to produce exceptional investment opportunities.”