Versant Ventures, a San Francisco-based global healthcare venture capital firm, has launched its third biotech incubator, Highline Therapeutics, and promoted Carlo Rizzuto to manage the firm’s newly established New York base.
Rizzuto will lead investments in innovative biotech startups as part of Versant’s strategy to expand its operations to New York and intensify investment activities in the broader Northeast. Based in Highline Therapeutics’ office in Manhattan, Rizzuto will work with Versant’s team of investment professionals and entrepreneurs to leverage the region’s world-class science and establish a broad portfolio of startups. A New York native, Rizzuto recently relocated to the city from Basel, Switzerland, where he previously operated from Versant’s European headquarters.
Since mid-2014, Rizzuto has led the effort to establish Highline Therapeutics as an engine for launching multiple biotech startups. Partnerships have been formed with some of the leading local academic institutions and several formal programs will be announced over the coming months.
Rizzuto said, “New York City’s researchers attract a significant amount of NIH funding, yet the city receives a relatively modest portion of available biotech venture capital funding. In the broader geographic region, there is a wealth of additional top-tier universities, such as Penn, Yale and Johns Hopkins. We are excited to partner with these institutions and build innovative startups together.”
In 2012, Rizzuto joined Versant as operating principal and played crucial roles in a number of promising investments including GenSight, Piqur, Anokion and Mosaic. Most recently, Rizzuto assumed the leadership role for the Anokion $760 million “build-to-buy” deal with Astellas in the field of autoimmune disease. He joined Versant from Novartis where he served in leadership roles in the drug development organization.
Highline is the latest addition to Versant’s network of regional discovery engines, which includes Blueline Bioscience in Toronto and Inception Sciences in San Diego, Vancouver and Montreal. Highline reflects the firm’s approach to more effectively identify breakthrough therapeutic discoveries directly from academic sources. Versant’s local incubation model has led to several successful outcomes, most recently in Quanticel Pharmaceuticals, which announced its acquisition by Celgene earlier this year. Quanticel was built from academic programs at Stanford University that were identified by Versant’s Bay Area team.