XO1 set out to develop ichorcumab, a synthetic anti-thrombin antibody developed to mimic the activity of a human antibody which appears to produce an anticoagulated state without predisposition to bleeding. As well as providing further validation of Index Ventures “asset centric” investment model for early stage pharmaceutical R&D, this announcement clearly demonstrates the value of tight collaboration between pharmaceutical companies and relevant venture capital funds. Furthermore, ichorcumab could represent a major breakthrough in modern healthcare if its ability to offer patients anti-coagulation with no increased risk of bleeding, was to be confirmed by clinical trials.
“Ichorcumab is one of the most exciting drug candidates out there, with enormous potential to improve clinical outcomes in common cardiovascular diseases,” said David Grainger, PhD, Partner at Index and Chief Scientific Officer, XO1.
XO1 was incorporated in 2013 by Index Ventures, in collaboration with Cambridge University professors Trevor Baglin and Jim Huntington and capitalized with a $11m Series A Round. Index Ventures led this financing with $10.7m, which led to Index owning the majority of the company. Other participating investors included Cambridge University and LRM.
In a joint comment, Dr Baglin and Prof Huntington stated: “It is difficult to overstate the importance of David Grainger and Index to the success of XO1. David was the first person beyond the initial development team to see the potential of ichorcumab, and Index proceeded to champion the founding and funding of XO1. His leadership of the scientific direction ensured a high level of rigour and impartiality that saw XO1 through several technical and intellectual hurdles culminating in the generation of a credible development plan."
David Grainger assumed the role of Chief Scientist and Chairman of the Board and Kevin Johnson, an Index Partner with deep expertise in antibody manufacturing and development, also joined the board. A few months after the creation of the company, Index brought Richard Mason to the company as its Chief Executive Officer. Richard, a very successful and proven biotech executive, was an old friend of the firm, having worked for many years with Kevin at Cambridge Antibody Technology and had strong relationship with David and me.
Under Richard’s leadership, XO1 has been run as a very focused single purpose company, with only 2 FTEs on the payroll, working to integrate the operational roles of a dozen executives, whose strategic input is made available to the Index “asset centric” platform. This framework perfectly illustrates our unique and well-established operational model that has been described elsewhere.
“XO1 has demonstrated how the asset-centric biopharmaceutical model, as pioneered by Index Ventures, can deliver fast and efficient translation from academic discovery to drug development candidate attractive to major pharmaceutical corporations,” said Dr Richard Mason, Chief Executive Officer, XO1. “Ichorcumab is also a great example of the innovation that can result from close collaboration between NHS clinicians and university-based scientists in the UK,” continued Mason.
The invention of ichorcumab was the result of close teamwork by Dr Trevor Baglin, Consultant Haematologist at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, and Professor Jim Huntington, Professor of Molecular Haemostasis at the Cambridge Institute of Medical Research, University of Cambridge.
XO1 is the 11th transaction of an asset centric company created by Index. The previous ten also include several high-profile names: Oncoethix (sold to Merck in December 2014), PanGenetics (sold to Abbvie in December 2009), ProFibrix (sold to The Medicines Company in August 2013), Funxional (sold to Boehringer Ingelheim in 2012), Aegerion (2010 IPO, NASDAQ: AEGR), Versartis (2014 IPO, NASDAQ: VSAR) and Minerva Neurosciences (2014 IPO, NASDAQ: NERV).
But most importantly: XO1, which is the very first exit of the most recent life sciences fund (Index Ventures Life 6), is significant not only because the Lionel Messi of biology has seemingly scored a magnificent goal in the first minutes of the match but, more importantly, because this landmark transaction shows that preclinical assets are a great place to find great returns on investments (…talking the investor’s talk). In turn, this is the best news if it enables the industry to attract more capital to the early stage R&D investing arena.
All in all, we are really hoping that, exit after exit, the asset centric model is demonstrating that pharma R&D can be an excellent place for investors.