Tuesday 16 February 2021 5:16 pm

Centessa launches with $250m funding in bid to take on big pharma

A merger of 10 biotech startups has launched with $250m in funding in a unique bid to take on the big drugmakers. 

Umbrella company Centessa Pharmaceuticals, founded by venture capital firm Medicxi, has launched today having raised $250m in an oversubscribed Series A. 

The round was led by General Atlantic and co-led by Vida Ventures and Janus Henderson Investors. 

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It comes amid fresh interest in life sciences and biotechnology amid the pandemic, with Centessa looking to speed up the development of new drugs. 

The company is aiming to build a large pharma firm with each of the subsidiaries focusing on a particular expertise and will operate largely independently. 

The portfolio “aims to deliver enhanced diversification, reduced risk and asymmetric upside with a view to withstanding the inherent low probability of success associated with drug development,” chief scientific officer Moncef Slaoui said. 

Slaoui is Glaxosmithkline’s research boss who later became former US President Donald Trump’s vaccine tsar. 

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Contessa’s subsidiaries are ApcinteX, Capella BioScience, Janpix, LockBody, Morphogen-IX, Orexia Therapeutics, Palladio Biosciences, PearlRiver Bio, Pega-One and Z Factor.“With this first-of-its-kind model, we are bringing together programs with robust genetic and biological validation under one new pharmaceutical company that provides centralized resources to enable and empower asset-focused teams to advance highly impactful programs for patients,” chief executive Saurabh Saha said.

“This approach encourages an environment where scientific teams are incentivized to maintain an unwavering focus on advancing medicines to key go/no-go inflection points based on data-driven decisions.”

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