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Canaan hires Pfizer executive, reels in $100M for biotech investing

Dive Brief:

  • Uwe Schoenbeck, a biotech veteran who most recently was chief scientific officer at Pfizer’s innovation division, has joined Canaan Partners as a venture partner, the investment firm announced Wednesday.
  • Since starting at Canaan in January, Schoenbeck has led Canaan’s involvement in a $132 million Series B round for precision cancer drug developer Alterome Therapeutics.
  • The firm also said Friday it has raised another $100 million to invest in technology and healthcare companies, bringing its total raised to more than $1 billion since launching a new fund in early 2023.

Dive Insight:

Canaan has been an active biotech investor over the past three years, backing companies like cough drug developer Nocion Therapeutics and a cancer drugmaker founded by Craig Crews called Halda Therapeutics. The firm expects Schoenbeck to help accelerate that activity.

“It is not often that we have the opportunity to add someone of [Schoenbeck’s] caliber and track record to the Canaan investment team,” Tim Shannon, general partner at Canaan, said in a statement. “He is a particularly good fit for Canaan as he shares our vision for how to identify breakthrough science, team with entrepreneurs, create and support biopharma companies, and, ultimately, advance patient care.”

At Pfizer, Schoenbeck led the company’s Emerging Science & Innovation unit, which included the Centers for Therapeutic Innovation, an academic partnering group that brought forward medicines like a gut disease drug licensed to a Roivant Sciences subsidiary. The group was recently shuttered, Fierce Biotech reported Wednesday.

Schoenbeck also sat on the board of directors of CQDM, a pharmaceutical consortium designed to bring early research into the industry. The effort involved companies such as Pfizer, AstraZeneca and GSK, as well as the Canadian government.

Previously, Schoenbeck was a vice president at Wyeth and Boehringer Ingelheim, and a professor at Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School.

Canaan first worked with Schoenbeck while he was at Pfizer, collaborating on an investment in Arrakis Therapeutics and a deal with Arvinas. In an interview, he said his decision to enter venture capital will give him a chance to return to his “hands-on” roots as a scientist and advance drugs at the early stages of their development.

“Interest from mid- and large-sized pharma has focused on de-risked assets,” Schoenbeck said. “A lot of our investments are in that range, enabling those studies, but I would also expect in years to come there will be some rebalancing in regards to early platforms and technologies.”