Boston-based venture capital firm Vida Ventures said Thursday that it has snagged $600 million more to invest in early-stage biotech companies in a second fund.
That fund should bolster the firm’s attempts to become a more significant player in the cottage industry of biotech venture capitalists. Vida has only formally invested in 14 companies since its launch in April 2018, though one — the cell therapy company Allogene — has already gone public. Merck bought another, Peloton Therapeutics, for $1 billion upfront.
The company also announced it is hiring Helen Kim, the former vice president of business development at Kite Pharma, to run its Los Angeles office. Kim was most recently a partner at The Column Group, another well-known venture capital firm.
Vida already has strong ties to Kite Pharma, the cell therapy company that Gilead bought in 2017 for $12 billion. Kim will be the sixth Kite alum to join Vida.
“When you have that type of experience, name recognition comes with it,” said Arie Belldegrun, Vida’s co-founder and the founder of Kite. “It’s different than starting a traditional venture [capital firm].”
Vida is not publicly disclosing a key metric for venture capital firms: how much money it has made so far.
“We can tell you that it looks extremely positive — beyond what I would anticipate from a two-year fund,” Belldegrun said.
Some of Vida’s most important investors are the founders themselves. Unusually, Belldegrun and his co-founders have put up a good size chunk of the firm’s money; Belldegrun estimates the founders’ own money amounts to about 30 percent of the two funds.
In fact, the initial idea was to only invest the founders’ own money. Then word got out to investors Belldegrun knew from his previous jobs at Kite and Two River, another investment firm.
“When they heard that we were coming with a fund, they wanted to be part of the party,” he said. “So we created a type of a club — an investor club — of wealthy family offices.”
Those family offices are also putting up some of the cash promised for Vida’s second fund; the rest will be coming from universities, which invest their endowments.
Vida’s new fund is larger than its last, and having more money will allow the firm to lead more financing rounds — that is, to set the terms that others investing in the same company at the same time must agree to. Typically, the investor that puts up the most cash in a given round gets to be the leader.
“If you want to lead a round of financing for a company that gets $150 million or so, it’s very hard to come [up] with $10 or $15 million or be the leader,” he said. Now, Vida can start investing up to $30 million or $50 million at a time.
“That will make us a more pronounced and major leader in the industry,” Belldegrun said. “Not only a follower.”