On International Women's Day SV Venture Partner Ruth McKernan reflects on some achievements of SV biotech portfolio companies

in SV News

On International Women’s Day it is extremely pleasing to note the vast majority of SV Health Investor’s biotech portfolio companies with women in their C-suite, many being led by female CEOs. It is one of the many reasons I was drawn to working with SV – that and of course SV’s Managing Partner, Kate Bingham who is a trailblazer for women investing in biotech.

Kate and the team at SV have built a 30-year history of investing in innovative biotech companies that has resulted in the development of 24 novel therapeutics including 6 novel drug classes.

Today, I wanted to highlight some of the more recent achievements from SV’s biotech portfolio companies with female leaders who I am proud to stand alongside.

Firstly, in my work as Venture Partner with SV’s Dementia Discovery Fund, I have the privilege of working alongside some of the most inspiring female scientists in our field including Caroline Benn CSO and Co-founder at LoQus23 Therapeutics who is a scientific giant in Huntington’s Disease and the fantastic Jane Osbourn, fellow SV Venture Partner and CSO at SV-created Alchemab Therapeutics where OliviaCavlan is COO.

Back in 2023 one of the companies that I co-founded with the Dementia Discovery Fund, AstronauTx, raised $61m in its oversubscribed Series A round, a reflection of its completely novel approach to neurodegenerative conditions including its lead programme in Alzheimer’s disease.

Amphista Therapeutics, a leader in next generation targeted protein degradation led by interim CEO Bev Carr and CSO Louise Modis, produced two compelling new data sets with its next generation bifunctional degraders demonstrating the robust science upon which the Company is based. This data displayed in vivo efficacy and the ability of Amphista’s degraders to target and degrade proteins in the central nervous system (CNS).

Caraway Therapeutics, an SV-created company with CSO Magdalene Moran, was acquired by MSD for a total potential consideration of up to $610m, including an undisclosed upfront payment as well as contingent milestone payments following the Company’s exciting progress in evaluating novel mechanisms of modulation of lysosomal function with potential for the treatment of progressive neurodegenerative diseases.

AviadoBio, a gene therapy company developing potentially transformative medicines for neurodegenerative disorders led by CEO Lisa Deschamps, initiated the Phase 1/2 clinical study of its investigational gene therapy, AVB-101 in a sub-population of people with frontotemporal dementia.

But beyond my own field of neurodegenerative disease, SV has a raft of exciting companies in its portfolio with women leading the charge.

BioAge Labs, SV’s newest biotech portfolio company led by CEO and Co-founder Kristen Fortney, raised $170m in an oversubscribed Series D financing to advance development of azelapragan, an oral drug with the potential to significantly increase weight loss and improve body composition. The Company is initiating Phase 2 trials using azelapragan in combination with Eli Lilly & Co’s Zepbound (tirzepatide) and other incretins for the treatment of obesity.

EyeBio, an SV-created ophthalmology company with Sarah Milsom as COO and Loni da Silva as CRO, recently shared Phase 1b/2a data demonstrating the unprecedented clinical effects of its lead molecule Restoret. At 12 weeks, patients with diabetic macular edema treated with Restoret experienced huge vision gain - an average of 11.2 letters - and an 80% reduction in excess retinal thickness. This trial was funded by the Company’s $130m Series A fundraise in 2023 and EyeBio is due to enter pivotal trials in 2024.

Imbria, a cardiometabolic company led by CEO Anne Prener and CFO Komal Joshi, announced exciting Phase 2 clinical data for its new drug candidate Ninerafaxstat demonstrating significant clinical efficacy in patients with multiple cardiac conditions.

Sitryx, an SV-created company focusing on regulating cell metabolism with Carrie Cook as CBO and Lisa Pierre as Head of Early Clinical Development, entered the clinic in December 2023 with SIT-011, an Eli Lilly & Co-partnered programme for high unmet need chronic autoimmune and inflammatory diseases.

These examples are from the last six months alone and provide a snapshot of what excites us at SV where we are building high value companies and supporting them throughout the full lifecycle of drug development.

Biotech is an incredibly exciting place to be where brilliant things can be achieved and often with women at the helm. There is of course still a way to go before we reach gender parity in C-suite roles but I am thrilled to witness young talented women entering the industry as they work towards becoming the leaders of tomorrow.

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