Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and MPM Capital have inked a first-of-its-kind investing collaboration. It will combine MPM’s venture capital investment fundraising with Dana-Farber’s philanthropic fundraising for cancer research.
At this point, the collaboration has raised two funds, the MPM Oncology Innovations Fund (INV) with $100 million to be used to create and invest in early-stage biotech companies focused on cancer, and the Dana-Farber Innovations Research Fund (IRF) that has more than $26 million in pledged donations to support early-stage cancer research at Dana-Farber.
“We are thrilled to have partnered with MPM on this innovative venture philanthropy model,” said Laurie H. Glimcher, president and chief executive officer of Dana-Farber. “We have generated substantial philanthropic support for exciting areas of cancer research at Dana-Farber, and MPM will support the creation of biotech companies that seek to bring new and advanced treatments to our patients.”
The two organizations worked together in the past to form CoStim Pharmaceuticals, which was acquired by Novartis, as well as the AbbVie-partnered Tizona Therapeutics.
The agreement gives MPM right of first offer to license Dana-Farber technologies chosen for commercialization.
“If a venture capital alliance comes with a significant amount of philanthropic donations, in this case $26 million, that is obviously an advantage,” said MPM co-founder and managing director Ansbert Gadicke. “That’s an additional $26 million for their research.”
MPM expects to invest about half of the fund in companies built on Dana-Farber research. On the MPM side, Steve Curtis is managing the alliance, including regular contact with Dana-Farber’s technology transfer office and discussions with senior scientific staff.
“I spend about a day a week of my time actually roaming the halls, meeting with investigators,” Curtis said.
MPM raised $400 million for its seventh venture fund in 2019. To date, MPM manages more than $1 billion in capital.
Dana-Farber, on its part, recently received $16.5 million to found a new research center focused on multiple myeloma.
Dana-Farber’s Innovations Research Fund (IRF) focuses on basic research. It is independently managed by a committee made up of Dana-Farber faculty researchers. The committee will evaluate the philanthropic funds via an RFP and competitive review process, which will continue twice a year for at least five years.
“The IRF will enable more of our faculty who are tackling fundamental questions to help improve our understanding of cancer development and progression,” said Barrett J. Rollins, chief scientific officer emeritus of Dana-Farber. “And through this unique collaboration with MPM, our faculty have a trusted partner to find opportunities to further advance their findings.”
MPM has shown great success in investing in biotech companies that actually get drugs to market. To date, they have been the lead investor in companies that originated 51 drugs that are commercialized. The way this deal is structured, it provides support for basic research that nonetheless has a real chance of becoming commercial entities.
“It’s important to us, philosophically, to not only leverage academia for innovative technologies that we can turn into exciting companies, but to also give back and turn this into a positive cycle,” said Gadicke.