By David G. Barry
At a time when many investors are reducing their life science activity, the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) appears to be getting more active.
The State of Qatar’s $450 billion sovereign wealth fund has in 2022 made at least three sizable investments in companies focused on using technologies to develop treatments. QIA did not reply to an inquiry from Markets Group.
In its most recent transaction, QIA took part in Senda Biosciences, Inc.’s $123 million Series C round, which also included founder Flagship Pioneering and such other new investors as Samsung Life Science Fund, Bluewave Capital and Stage 1 Ventures. The State of Michigan Retirement System also returned as an investor. Senda has raised $266 million to date.
Based in Cambridge, Mass., Senda describes itself as harnessing nature to program targeted, potent and tunable medicines. In a prepared statement, company CEO Guillaume Pfefer said the company is developing “comprehensively programmable medicines with the potential to reach inaccessible cells, tissues and organs.”
Earlier this year, QIA and Oaktree Capital Management, L.P. agreed to provide up to $260 million in funding to publicly traded BioXcel Therapeutics, Inc. Based in New Haven, Conn., BioXcel is utilizing artificial intelligence approaches to develop transformative medicines in neuroscience and immuno-oncology. The capital was to be used for commercial activities and to support the expansion of clinical development efforts of a drug – including a Phase 3 program for the acute treatment of agitation in patients with Alzheimer’s Disease.
Also in 2022, QIA took part in Ventus Therapeutics Inc.’s $140 million Series C round. Located in Waltham, Mass., and Montreal, Ventus is utilizing structural biology and computational tools to identify and develop small molecule therapeutics across a broad range of disease indications. The round was co-led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2 and RA Capital Management.
Investors put a record $77 billion into U.S. biotech startups in 2021, according to venture industry tracker Crunchbase. So far in 2022, funding to the sector has declined by 38.6%. Crunchbase also said that 660 companies received funding between January and August – compared with 1,034 in the same period in 2021.
The pullback has in large part been the result of the poor performance of publicly traded biotech companies – especially ones that have gone public over the past few years.