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Venture firm Scion Life Sciences launches with $310M to back new biotechs

Dive Brief:

  • Scion Life Sciences on Wednesday made its debut as a venture firm, announcing the close of a $310 million fund to invest in new biotechnology startups.
  • Led by a trio of biotech veterans with experience at firms like Apple Tree Partners and Medicxi, Scion plans to focus initially on backing a half-dozen life sciences companies.
  • The New York City-based firm closed its inaugural fund amid newfound optimism in biotech, which has been boosted by an uptick in dealmaking and IPO activity.

Dive Insight:

Scion is pitching a model that shares similarities with an approach startup creators like Flagship Pioneering and Arch Venture Partners have had success with.

The new firm aims to build a small number of “durable” startups equipped with significant resources and funding — a notable emphasis after the past two years saw many young drugmakers struggle to survive.

“We’re not a company formation factory,” said one of the firm’s leaders, Aaron Kantoff. “Our goal is not quantity but quality in curating the portfolio we’re working on.”

Kantoff and Sam Hall, both former Apple Tree investors, are heading the firm alongside Tadd Wessel, founder and managing partner of healthcare venture firm Petrichor, of which Scion is an affiliate.

Kantoff was previously a co-founder and board member of RayzeBio, which priced a $311 million IPO last fall before selling to Bristol Myers Squibb. Hall, an immunologist by training, helped build a number of biotechs that have since been acquired, including Chinook Therapeutics and Syntimmune.

Though Scion’s partners say they are open to investing across technology and diseases, they’re prioritizing areas with less competition. The team currently has four projects in development that could possibly become companies.

In addition to offering entrepreneurs funding, Scion plans to manage some research and development capabilities as well as provide operational support.

“We have the ability to keep investing in and supporting our companies from pre-formation seed stage with a couple thousand dollars, all the way through maturity and can now invest $60 million or more to an individual portfolio company over its life,” Hall said. “We’re not going to stop our involvement and hand it off to other investors.”

Scion initially planned to raise $250 million for its first fund but eventually pulled in another $60 million. Its raise is of similar size as other recently launched biotech funds, like Bioluminescence Ventures and Cure Ventures.

Well-established venture firms like Flagship and Arch are also raising billions of dollars, suggesting rebounding investor enthusiasm. (Across all sectors, VC fundraising activity reached $67 billion last year, according to data from PitchBook and the National Venture Capital Association.)

Kantoff and Hall said they don’t plan to build biotechs with the goal of quickly selling them to pharmaceutical buyers. Though M&A is a key piece of the biotech ecosystem, Scion wants its companies to be able to independently commercialize their drugs if they don’t end up partnering with a larger firm.

“When we talk about that mission of building that, we think of the likes of Vertex or Regeneron as our end goal,” Kantoff said.