By all accounts, last week was a banner week on the venture side. A total of $175.4 million was raised by private biotechs, which far exceeded the industry’s average of about $100 million per week since the start of 2005. The heavy lifting was done by three companies - Nanosphere ($57 million raised), MacroGenics ($45 million) and Intercept ($41 million). What’s notable is that the lead investors on the Nanosphere and Intercept deals are not members of the typical VC crowd.
Intercept’s round was led by Italy’s Genextra, and included Balyasny Asset Management and JAFCO Life Science, the U.S. venture arm of Japan’s JAFCO Co.
Genextra is a holding company that invests in early stage biotech and nanotech companies. Intercept is no stranger to Italy, as its technology based on the farnesoid X receptor (FXR) originated at an Italian university.
Intercept’s lead compound is INT-747, an oral agonist of FXR to treat liver damage caused by fibrosis and obstructed bile flow. A Phase Ib trial is expected to start next month.
"Given the origins of the company’s IP, it made sense to partner with Genextra," said Intercept President and CEO Mark Pruzanski. "Also, given our focus on chronic liver disease, our story was very interesting to JAFCO," as such diseases are increasingly prevalent in Japan.
Pruzanski said the company had competing term sheets from U.S. investors, but noted that "there was a method to the madness of selecting this syndicate. Genextra has a very strong focus in metabolic and degenerative diseases. They’re essentially a scientific campus, and in