IVCA Feature: New Member Profile of Agent Capital

June 20, 2018

More new members are joining the Illinois Venture Capital Association, which welcomes Venture Capital, Private Equity and support industries. New member opportunities include the perks of IVCA networking, lobbying support and participation in new ideas. The latest new member is Agent Capital, a biotech Venture Capital film focused on investing in novel therapeutics that address unmet patient need.
The following is a Q&A profile with Agent Capital, which explores the firm’s background and their expectations for interacting with the IVCA.
New Member: Agent Capital
Representative: Marta New, Partner
IVCA: What is a brief history and background of the Agent Capital?
Agent Capital: Agent Capital is a Venture Capital fund investing in the healthcare sector, with current focus on companies developing pharmaceutical treatments for patients suffering from devastating diseases such as cancer, autoimmune and other immunological, neurological and rare diseases.
Our team worked together previously at Baxter Ventures and Baxalta Ventures, each led by Geeta Vemuri. We bring unique large pharma and venture investing expertise to nurture companies that serve patients. While at Baxter Ventures and Baxalta Ventures, we made over 15 investments – most notably True North Therapeutics (acquired by Bioverativ/Sanofi in 2017), Covagen (acquired by J&J in 2015), Naurex (acquired by Allergan in 2015), Durata (acquired by Actavis/Allergan in 2014), and other high performing companies, including Precision BioSciences and SyntImmune.
After Shire acquired Baxalta in 2016, our team formed Agent Capital to continue our successful VC investment philosophy through relationships developed over the years. Our team is supported by a strong base of limited partners and industry advisory board members, including many well-known Illinois-based investors and entrepreneurs.
IVCA: Why did the firm decide to join the Illinois Venture Capital Association?
Agent Capital: Our roots are from Baxter here in Illinois, where we first began as its corporate arm. Now at Agent Capital, we have already invested or collaborated with members of the Illinois VC community, including Adams Street Partners, AbbVie Ventures and Takeda Ventures. Our goal is to position Agent Capital as a reputable healthcare Venture Capital group sought out by entrepreneurs and co-investors, both locally within Illinois and globally.
IVCA: Biotechnology is literally the stuff of our lives, as we live today. Where has the technology advancements of last 25 years merged with bio/medical advancements, and what focus is on the future of these technologies?
Agent Capital: Innovation in biotech is critical to drive the industry forward, as evidenced by the pharmaceutical industry’s unquenchable thirst to access external innovation through M&A and partnerships. Most innovation still happens at early stage VC-backed biotech companies that can take the necessary risks and change how we think about treating and curing illnesses.
Part of our strategy at Agent Capital is to support early-stage, transformative companies and to help them grow. We want to be at the table when novel science is being translated into products, thereby helping to reshape the future of healthcare. We have already deployed capital in several transformative companies, including a gene therapy company developing cures for devastating rare diseases, and an Illinois-based non-opioid pain management company with an extraordinary management team that we previously backed at Baxter Ventures. We are also interested in closely following the growing field of artificial intelligence applied to healthcare, which has the potential to accelerate drug development and improve efficacy of new drugs. It’s quite an exciting time to be investing in healthcare these days!
IVCA: Your investment direction is toward ‘unmet patient needs’ in several categories. What do biotech researchers and the potential companies from that research understand about ‘unmet needs’ today, in the pinpointing of their energies towards them?
Agent Capital: Biotech R&D sector has recently been very focused on developing therapies where standard of care is not optimal or patients have no treatments available, which includes the  majority of rare diseases. Even with the latest breakthrough therapies in cancer for example, only about 20% of patients experience an improvement. That leaves significant opportunity for drug developers and investors, including Agent Capital, to support novel and more effective treatments. Past decades in genome sequencing have created an explosion of personalized drug approaches customized for individual patient. This has enabled an ongoing shift from a one-pill-fits-all model to a more patient-centric model, with new therapies aiming to achieve improved clinical outcomes.
IVCA: Which countries, besides the United States, are pursuing breakthroughs in biotech most passionately, and what differences do you find in their approach, as opposed to the U.S.?
Agent Capital: The United States is still leading the way, and inspiring other countries to invest in biotech innovation. The majority of investment dollars are deployed here in the U.S., with other markets somewhat behind. In Europe – specifically in the U.K., Nordic and Benelux countries – we have seen an increased number of strong biotechnologies coming out of universities. In those markets, governments and foundations are funding the risky, early stages of drug development.
Typically we find the Series A rounds are done with local European investors, followed by Series  B investor base expanded to include more U.S. groups. This trend maintains quite attractive valuations, which is great for Agent Capital as we gain access to attractively priced later-stage deals from Europe. Another growing market is China, which has been making an effort to build biotech presence in the last few years. We are seeing Chinese investors increasingly backing U.S. biotech companies, and often negotiating Chinese commercial rights for those novel drugs developed here in the U.S.
IVCA: What does Agent Capital hope to achieve in their interaction with the VC/PE community within the IVCA?
Agent Capital: By working with the IVCA and tapping into all IVCA resources, we hope to develop long-lasting working relationships with local investors and policy makers here in Illinois,  and establish Agent Capital as a go-to healthcare investor for innovative companies in the region.
For more information on the Agent Capital, go to www.AgentCapital.com