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European life sciences venture capital (VC) firm Forbion has closed its Growth Opportunities Fund (Forbion Growth) with €185m. This comes only four months after Forbion began raising money for its newest fund; the company hopes to complete its fundraising by the end of the year with €250m raised.

The fund is being supported by existing investors – Pantheon, KfW Capital and the European Investment Fund (EIF) – as well as some new investors, including Eli Lilly and the Belgian Growth Fund.

“Forbion is grateful for the strong support from existing limited partners (LPs), several of whom have supported the firm for many fund cycles,” says the VC firm’s general partner Dirk Kersten. We have seen increasing support from those LPs to support Forbion across the various fund strategies hence their involvement with Forbion Growth.”

He adds: “We welcome Lilly and Horizon Therapeutics and are excited to start working with them. We see their support as strong validation of the Forbion strategies and are excited to work closely with them.

“These leading pharmaceutical companies give us access to their deep expertise in scientific innovations, drug development and market access.”

Forbion Growth is the second fund currently managed by Forbion; the other is called Forbion IV and is supported by €360m in capital.

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Focus on innovative late-stage companies

Rather than focusing on a certain therapeutic area, Forbion Growth is concentrating on development stage. “The fund’s primarily focus is on clinical-stage assets/companies and cross-over rounds,” explains Kersten.

Co-founder and managing partner Sander Slootweg noted in a release: “The market for late-stage, private European life sciences investments is already sizable at €2bn per annum and rapidly growing.

“Despite the de-risked nature of the late-stage clinical assets in these companies, this market segment is still underserved. As a result, many companies and assets stall in late-stage development, due to a lack of specific funding.”

Forbion plans to break this cycle by supporting these late-stage companies by providing three things: private growth capital for mature assets, pre-initial public offering funding and capital to under-valued public companies.

The company is looking to invest up to €30m per deal with the aim to build a portfolio of between eight and 12 companies.

The Advisory Group approach

When deciding where to invest, Forbion Growth’s operating partners are to play an important role.

The two operating partners of the fund are Carlo Incerti and Patrick Vink. Incerti is the former chief medical officer of Sanofi Genzyme and has deep expertise in clinical development regulatory strategies, while Vink is a former global head of hospital care products at Mylan and chief operating officer at Cubist Pharmaceuticals where he worked on market access, product launches and corporate strategy.

The fund will be further supported by a newly formed Advisory Group. Kersten explains: “The Advisory Group will meet with the Forbion Growth investment team on a regular basis to discuss deal sourcing and investment strategies, as well as how to drive value creation within portfolio companies as they mature to the next stage.”

The group includes Galapagos CEO Onno van de Stolpe – Forbion invested in Cambridge Drug Discovery, which was sold to Galapagos after being acquired into Biofocus in the 2000s – and Genmab CEO Jan van de Winkel.

Other members of the group are Tim van Hauwermeiren, CEO of Forbion portfolio company Argenx, as well as Evotec’s CEO Werner Lanthaler and Maarten de Jong from investment bank Moelis & Company.

Success stories for Forbion

“Forbion is proud to have been a founding investor in European success stories, such as uniQure, [and] Dezima Pharma, [which was] acquired by Amgen [in 2015 for $300m],” notes Kersten. The latter is one of four exits that Forbion has overseen to date.

uniQure is working on developing gene therapies for rare, genetic diseases, including haemophilia B, Fabry disease and Huntington’s disease. Dezima Pharma focuses on treating cardiovascular diseases related to dyslipidemia, where there are an abnormal levels of lipids in the blood.

Recent exciting Forbion investments, in Kersten’s view, include Inflazome, Dyne Therapeutics, Achilles Therapeutics, Kandy Therapeutics and Northsea Therapeutics.