- Foundery, a biotechnology venture firm focused on bridging immunology research at academic institutions into industry, announced Tuesday its first fund, with nearly $30 million dedicated to promising drug programs.
- Headquartered next to the University of California, San Francisco, Foundery has a research collaboration with the school and the University of Arizona to turn "scientific breakthroughs into impactful therapies” through drug development support, the firm said.
- The company has nine preclinical drug leads in its research pipeline, and was founded in 2021 by former executives and scientists at Pionyr Immunotherapeutics, a cancer drug developer Ikena Oncology reached a deal to acquire earlier this month.
Foundery bills itself as a “venture studio.” Unlike more traditional venture firms that form and fund biotech companies, its focus is earlier, helping academic researchers overcome the roadblocks they can often face advancing scientific discoveries. This “valley of death,” as it’s called, can stymie the progress of medical research before a drugmaker or venture investor will buy in.
According to CEO and co-founder Michel Streuli, Foundery can run key early experiments for researchers. Doing so can help lower the considerable risk involved in pursuing “therapeutically unproven, novel discoveries,” especially for academics who often don’t have the time, resources, or expertise to advance their ideas, Streuli said in an email to BioPharma Dive.
Foundery helps scientists develop early-stage immunotherapy candidates by identifying targets and doing proof-of-concept testing. The firm can then license out the drug programs or help researchers advance them to the point that they can become the foundation of a biotech startup.
The approach enables Foundery to quickly and inexpensively stress test early research, rather than “needing to start a company each time to test a hypothesis or drug target,” Streuli said.
Its initial pipeline includes programs in therapeutic areas such as cancer, autoimmune diseases and inflammation. Two of them are focused on “historically challenging therapeutic targets,” but Foundery hasn’t revealed what they are.
The funding announced Tuesday is the first close of a larger $160 million fund Foundery hopes to raise.
Even at that size, Foundery’s bankroll would fall short of funds raised by other new biotech venture firms this year, such as the $300 million Cure Ventures debuted with and the $200 million secured by oncology-focused Yosemite. Foundery’s goals are different, however.
“Together, we are setting a new standard for mutually beneficial and efficient collaborations,” Max Krummel, a co-founder of Foundery, said in a statement. Krummel, who is also a professor of pathology at UCSF and co-founder of its ImmunoX Initiative, was involved in early research on CTLA-4, the target of the first approved “checkpoint” cancer immunotherapy.
Venture veterans such as Samsara BioCapital’s Srini Akkaraju and Redpoint Ventures’ Jeff Brody have joined Foundery’s roster of limited partners. Foundery’s investment model, Brody said, can “help academics and their institutions de-risk their discoveries and hold on to a larger percentage of the upside.”
Before their time at Pionyr, the executive team had previous experience developing cancer and immune drugs at Merck & Co. and Gilead Sciences.
Pionyr agreed to be acquired by Ikena months after Gilead passed on a buyout option.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to include comments from Foundery CEO Michel Streuli.