The fight against cancer is daunting. According to National Cancer Institute, nearly 40 percent of “men and women will be diagnosed with cancer” during their lives.
But solutions to the widespread health problem aren’t confined to university research institutions or corporate pharmaceutical labs. Startups are taking part in the battle against cancer, raising immense sums from established VC firms in the process.
Arcus Biosciences, a Hayward, California-based biosciences company, has raised a total of $227 million to bring its immunotherapy cancer-fighting solutions to market. Its recent $107 million Series C round will enable, according to Ben Adams of FierceBiotech, the startup to perform a series of clinical trials for its new immunotherapy treatments.
So which VC firms are backing this biotech startup?
Fourteen investors participated in Arcus Biosciences latest round. GV, the corporate venture capital arm of Google, is likely the most well-known investor in the cohort.
GV had formerly invested in Arcus Biosciences’s Series B round, which brought in a total of $70 million. No lead investor, according to Crunchbase, is known for the Series B. However, GV did lead the startup’s latest round.
That GV would invest in a bioscience company is not unheard of — it’s a rather active investor in the space. According to a Crunchbase Pro search, GV has invested in 25 companies identified by Crunchbase as being in either the Biotechnology or Biopharma sector—nearly 5 percent of GV’s total investments. Crunchbase News reached out to the company for comment on what impact GV’s investment will have, and will update this post if we hear back.
GV’s corporate backer is also not afraid to place its own bets. While Google was its own entity, the company founded Calico in an effort to understand aging through biology. Calico now operates separately under Alphabet’s umbrella.
Other investors, such as Celgene and The Column Group, have been with the Arcus Biosciences since its first known raise. Unlike GV and The Column Group, however, Celgene does not operate as a standard VC firm.
Instead, the publicly-traded biotech company sources and deploys treatments for cancer. In light the wake of failed clinical trials, Celgene’s stock price has taken hits due to lowered long-term guidance.
Biotech is a hard field to compete in, as Celgene can attest to. But the odds of Arcus Bioscience succeeding where many others have failed is possible—at least if you have faith in its founding team.
Terry Rosen, the CEO of Arcus Biosciences, sold his former biotech startup, Flexus, for $800 million cash to Bristol-Myers in approximately two years. The quick turnaround, and formerly attracting major VCs such as Kleiner Perkins, has likely helped VCs such as GV put their hat in the ring.
The startup’s president, Juan Jean, is also an alumnus of Flexus. According to his Crunchbase profile, Juan “led the discovery and progression into the clinic of 8 novel drug candidates in the immunology space” during his seven-year tenure at Chemocentryx.
Of course, operating as a startup in biotech is a risky endeavor. Reuters reports biologics, such as vaccines, “had a 15 percent chance of going from Phase I through to FDA approval.”
But the odds, paired with the right team, are good enough for tech investors such as GV to pursue. And any effort to combat the ravages of cancer are welcome.
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