Medical Innovation Exchange

Two former Apple Tree investors roll toward new biotech-focused fund launching with $310M

Two former Apple Tree investors have set off on their own path, blossoming a new biotech-focused incubator with an inaugural fund of $310 million. 

Scion Life Sciences officially hit the stage Tuesday morning, led by Sam Hall, Ph.D., and Aaron Kantoff, who overlapped at VC firm Apple Tree Partners for six years until 2019. Kantoff, co-founder of Bristol Myers-bought RayzeBio, also spent some time as a venture partner at European investment firm Medicxi before starting Scion. 

Scion’s core mission is not too different from many other biotech investors, with an emphasis on directing capital to scientists and research that have a high probability of success and could result in paradigm-shifting medicines. To accomplish that, Scion and its founders are laying out a concise roadmap that starts with incubating early science focused on biologics and large molecule development. 

The firm’s in-house R&D capabilities, dubbed Scion Innovations, will be used as a proving ground for scientists and entrepreneurs looking to establish their first programs. Scion said in its announcement that “only programs with exceptional potential mature into full-scale portfolio company investments.” 

“We really want to be ruthless early in the incubation of the projects and companies we build,” Hall told Fierce Biotech in an interview alongside Kantoff. “We want to address head-on all of the key existential risks that we see that … confront the project and company build,” Hall added. 

The reason the fund is prioritizing large molecule and biologics development is that this space spans some of the most mature science, according to the founders. Scion has “four promising company formation efforts underway,” as noted in a press release, which Kantoff elaborated spans bispecific antibodies, conjugates, and gene and cell therapy. None of the potential companies are working on cancer treatments.

Kantoff expects at least one of the four companies currently being incubated to launch before the end of the year, with another possibly on the cards as well. The effort to grow those biotechs so far has happened in parallel with fundraising efforts, which went as well as Kantoff and Hall could have imagined. They set out to raise $250 million with a hard cap of $300 million, but thanks to “the tremendous amount of interest and momentum,” according to Kantoff, the investor syndicate agreed to raise the cap to $310 million. 

The firm is affiliated with healthcare private equity company Petrichor, although Scion’s founders insist the two will operate separately. Hall described the two entities as “separate businesses with partners in common,” with a relationship principally focused on a tax partnership where they share administrative functions. Tadd Wessel, Petrichor’s managing director, is a co-founder and managing director of Scion. 

“I and the entire Petrichor team are delighted to partner with them in building Scion,” Wessel said in Scion’s release.

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