Be The Match Subsidiary Emerges as a Biotech Venture Player
Be The Match BioTherapies LLC, a recently created subsidiary of the Minneapolis-based National Marrow Donor Program/Be The Match, this month emerged as a biotechnology venture investor with its participation in a $50 million financing round for a Massachusetts stem cell company.
And, its leaders say, it likely won’t be the last time the 17-month-old nonprofit spinoff will take part in venture funding to support the commercialization of biotech related to NMDP/Be The Match’s mission of advancing cell therapies for leukemia patients and others needing bone marrow/stem cell transplants.
NMDP/Be The Match moved its 995 employees into a newly constructed headquarters building in the North Loop in December 2015. It runs a network of more than 486 organizations that support marrow transplant worldwide, including 178 transplant centers in the United States and more than 45 international donor centers and cooperative registries.
Wholly-owned subsidiary Be The Match BioTherapies was among the Series B investors for Magenta Therapeutics of Cambridge, Massachusetts, a biotech company developing therapies “to improve and expand the use of curative stem cell transplantation for more patients.” Other participants in the oversubscribed round included new lead investor GV (formerly Google Ventures) and existing investors such as Atlas Venture, Third Rock Ventures, Partners Innovation Fund and Access Industries.
A major feature of the Magenta deal was also Be The Match BioTherapies’ new involvement as a strategic partner for the company, under which the two sides “will explore opportunities to work together across all of Magenta’s research efforts, from discovery through clinical development.”
Magenta’s lead drug candidate is MGTA-456, which it claims is capable of expanding the number of cord blood stem cells available for transplantation, thus achieving “superior clinical outcomes compared to standard transplant procedures.” John Wagner M.D., executive medical director of the Bone Marrow Transplantation Program at the University of Minnesota is leading the research.
The strategic agreement allows Magenta to “leverage” Be The Match BioTherapies’ capabilities, including its cell therapy delivery platform, industry relationships, clinical trial design and management and patient outcomes data generated from the parent organization.
According to NMDP’s 2015 annual report, Be The Match BioTherapies was established on Dec. 4, 2015, and authorized to do business as a nonprofit limited liability company. The report said it was anticipated the subsidiary would “conduct certain business in the field of cellular therapy consistent with the nonprofit mission of its parent corporation, National Marrow Donor Program, but outside the scope of NMDP’s customary core business.”
Led by NMDP Chief Financial Officer Amy Ronneberg, Be The Match BioTherapies says it is making the parent organization’s capabilities “available to commercial entities developing new allogeneic and autologous cellular therapies.” For example, it says it is collaborating with an unnamed biotech company to design a donor identification and cell harvest strategy for white blood cells from donors with specific human leukocyte antigen types.
When asked if the subsidiary’s venture investment into Magenta Therapies was a sign that it is staking out ground as a stem cell industry investment player, company spokeswoman Melissa Neill told TCB it’s indeed a scenario that could play out again.
“We are continually looking for ways to advance science and research in new cellular therapies,” she said in an email. “In the future, this might mean investments in or additional partnerships with companies whose goals align with our goal of developing and delivering cellular therapies to positively impact patients’ lives.”