Geeta Vemuri makes a new investment while Anu Hariharan sees a portfolio company make an acquisition

From our Women's PE Briefs - week commencing August 23, 2021

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Agent Capital’s Geeta Vemuri backs a company co-founded by Longwood Fund’s Lea Hachigian

Geeta Vemuri, Agent Capital’s managing partner and founder, backs Immunitas Therapeutics, Inc. a single-cell genomics-based drug discovery company that was co-founded by Longwood Fund Principal Lea Hachigian and whose board includes Novartis Venture Fund’s Laura Brass. Agent led the Waltham, Mass.-based company’s $58 million Series B round that also included Medical Excellence Capital, 120 Capital, Solasta Ventures, Mirae Asset, Ono Venture Investment, NS Investment, BrightEdge and such existing investors as Longwood, NVF, Leaps by Bayer, M Ventures, Alexandra Venture Investments and Evotec.

Immunitas will use the capital to advance its lead program into the clinic – a CD161 inhibitor that is focused on treating both solid tumors and hematological malignancies. In a statement, Geeta said Immunitas “is focused on creating impactful therapies that modulate oncology targets, driven by a cross-functional platform that combines single cell analysis computation and molecular and cellular biology to rapidly identify and validate new targets. This approach is well suited to provide powerful translational insights into biomarker and indication selection with long-term potential beyond IO.”

Lea, who is serving as president, co-founded Immunitas with Dr. Kai Wucherpfennig, Dr. Mario Suvà and Dane Wittrup. She is also co-founder of TScan Therapeutics. Immunitas was founded to directly address the challenge of translating findings from laboratory research in model organisms to meaningful clinical advances in humans. Immunitas focuses on human samples. In conjunction with the financing, Geeta joined Immunitas’ board, which includes Laura and Lea.

A portfolio company of Y Combinator’s Anu Hariharan acquires Ambika Acharya’s Weav

A portfolio company of Y Combinator’s Anu Hariharan acquires another Y Combinator portfolio company, Weav, which was co-founded by Ambika Acharya and which has created a universal API for commerce platforms. Brex, Inc. is acquiring Weav for $50 million. Weav received $4.3 million in seed funding earlier this year from a group that included Y Combinator and Brex founders Henrique Dubugras and Pedro Franceschi. Other investors in that round included Foundation Capital, Abstract Ventures, BoxGroup, LocalGlobe, Operator Partners, Commerce Ventures, SV Angel, Ramp founder Karim Atiyeh, Digits founders Jeff Seibert and Wayne Chang, Hatch founder Thomson Nguyen, GoCardless founder Matt Robinson and former COO Carlos Gonzalez-Cadenas, Vouch founder Sam Hodges, Plaid’s Charley Ma, as well as executives from such companies as Square, Modern Treasury and Pagaya.

Weav’s platform enables companies to build and embed new financial products and create new opportunities for e-commerce merchants, creators and other entrepreneurs. Ambika founded Weav in New York City with Avikam Agur and Nadav Lidor after participating in the W20 YC batch.

Brex has developed a special credit card for start-ups and last year acquired three other start-ups: Neji, Compose Labs and Landria, all of which, like Brex, are in San Francisco. Brex’s card enables start-ups to qualify based on funding rather than on credit history. Brex’s application process takes just two minutes.

Brex earlier this year raised a $425 million Series D round that Y Combinator took part in along with such other investors as Tiger Global Management, TCV, Madrone Capital Partners, IVP and Ribbit Capital. The round valued it at $7.5 billion. Anu first led Y Combinator into Brex’s 2018 $57 million Series B round and joined its board. Brex’s investors also include Kleiner Perkins Digital Growth Fund, whose team is now BOND. Juliet de Baubigny, who was at Kleiner Perkins and is now with BOND, lists Brex as a company that she is involved with.

AbbVie’s Margarita Chavez and Pfizer’s Elaine Jones guide their corporate venture arms back into Jnana Therapeutics

AbbVie VenturesMargarita Chavez and Pfizer VenturesElaine Jones guide their corporate venture arms back into Jnana Therapeutics, a drug discovery company whose co-founder, CEO and president is Joanne Kotz. AbbVie Ventures and Pfizer Ventures took part in Jnana’s $50 million Series B round along with RA Capital Management and fellow existing investors Polaris Partners, Versant Ventures and Avalon Ventures. Jnana launched in late 2017 with $50 million of Series A funding.

Based in Boston, Jnana will use the capital to advance its oral approach to treating phenylketonuria, or PKU, into the clinic, as well as its small molecule pipeline. Jnana has developed a chemoproteomic platform to target SLC transporters and other well-validated but hard-to-drug targets. The company is focusing on immunometabolism, lysosomal function and mucosal defense, important disease pathways where SLC transporters provide novel targets for immuno-oncology, inflammatory disorders and neurological diseases. 

Joanne was previously a director at the Broad Institute.

Margarita serves as an observer on Jnana’s board, which also includes Dr. Annie Chen, a strategic consultant at Double Spring Biopharma Consulting.

Veery Maxwell guides Ajax Strategies into Anastasia Volkova-led Regrow’s $17M Series A round

Veery Maxwell, a partner with Ajax Strategies, guides her firm into a company founded and led by Anastasia Volkova that has created carbon measurement software for the agri-food supply chain sector. Ajax, Tenacious Ventures and Cargill led Regrow’s $17 million Series A round, which also included existing investors M12, Main Sequence, AirTree Ventures and the Jeremy and Hannelore Grantham Foundation’s Neglected Climate Opportunities Fund

Regrow will use the capital to accelerate the global rollout of its monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) tool, which is designed to customize, optimize and monetize carbon impact strategies across the entire supply chain from buyers to sellers, producers and verifiers. It currently monitors more than 68 million hectares of agricultural land in 45 countries. Its clients include General Mills, Cargill, Bayer AG and The Nature Conservancy.

Leila Zegna takes part in AllStripes’ $50M Series B round 

Leila Zegna, director of the Kabuki Syndrome Foundation, takes part in a new round for AllStripes, which is focused on accelerating research for patients with rare diseases and whose co-founder and CEO is Nancy Yu and whose board includes Lux Capital’s Deena Shakir. Lux led AllStripes’ $50 million Series B round that also included JAZZ Venture Partners, Medidata Solutions, McKesson Ventures and such other existing investors as Spark Capital and Maveron.

Known until last year as RDMD, San Francisco-based AllStripes has developed a platform that generates deep insights to accelerate rare disease research and drug development, as well as a patient application that empowers patients and families to get access to and benefit from their own medical data. Nancy founded the company with Onno Faber, who serves as chairman. AllStripes evolved out of Onno being diagnosed with a rare disease called neurofibromatosis type 2.

Nancy is the former head of corporate development at 23andMe, which is led by Anne Wojcicki. She also spent time as a biotech investment banker.

AllStripes aims to partner with rare disease biopharmaceutical companies to provide deep clinical electronic health record data from patients, rare disease doctors and foundations. It is currently partnering with more than 30 patient advocacy organizations across its 40 conditions, supporting more than 3,000 users to date. AllStripes will use the capital to support the launch of 100 new rare disease research programs while expanding its global operational footprint, technology and data automation enhancements to improve research insights.

Lux was originally led into RDMD/AllStripes in 2018 by then-partner Renata Quintini. When Renata left Lux to form Renegade Partners, her board role was taken by Deena.

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