Israeli healthtech and life sciences venture capital firm aMoon, founded by Dr. Yair Schindel and Marius Nacht, plans to raise a $500 million second fund. The first closing of the fund, at $200 million, will take place in the next few days.
The first aMoon fund was set up a year ago, and has so far invested $120 million from Nacht alone. Nacht was a founder of Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. (Nasdaq: CHKP) and is chairman of the company's board. In recent years, he has sold shares in Check Point, among other things in order to found aMoon. Schindel, who headed the government initiative "Digital Israel", was recruited to manage the fund.
"Since the money invested in the first fund was entirely from Marius," says Schindel, "it invested in two types of companies - either very early stage, even building companies from zero, as in the case of DayTwo, or fairly late stage, such as BiondVax, CartiHeal or Mapi Pharma, companies that within two to three years we'll be able to know whether they will be successful or not.
"When investors started to approach us and asked to invest with us, the need arose to separate the offers, in order to suit the various tastes and needs of the various kinds of investors. So aMoon 2 was founded to invest in late-stage companies, while a smaller fund was set up to invest in early-stage projects." The fund is not yet disclosing the names of its investors.
aMoon 2 has already started to invest in late-stage companies from Nacht's share in it, which will be 25%. Among the companies currently in aMoon 2's portfolio are CartiHeal, Ayala Pharmaceutical, and Biolojic Design.
CartiHeal has developed an implant for the treatment of cartilage and osteochondral defects. Other investors in the company are Elron Electronic Industries Ltd. (TASE: ELRN) and the Peregrine fund, and major companies such as Johnson & Johnson. Schindel: "They have done the impossible and produced a product that promotes regeneration of cartilage, the Holy Grail of this field." CartiHeal is in the midst of a clinical trial, which should be the last before it receives approval to market its product in the US.
Ayala Pharmaceutical was founded by aMoon together with the Israel Biotech Fund (IBF) to buy from Bristol-Myers its assets in the field of cancers exhibiting a mutation known as Notch. The two funds are enthusiastic about the company, which will shortly begin a trial of a product for treatment of cancer of the salivary glands. Schindel: "This trial will be fairly small, because it concerns an orphan disease and because we are adapting the treatment personally to patients with a certain gene for whom, once their disease returns after treatment with the one drug designed for it, medicine has nothing further to offer. The FDA approves very short tracks for situations of this kind, and the pricing of the drug should be very worthwhile. Later on we will be able to look at much more common cancers that present the Notch mutation, such as breast cancer which does not respond to drugs."
In an interview with "Globes" yesterday, Prof. David Sidransky of IBF said that the investors in Ayala Pharmaceutical hoped to turn it into a leading drug development company that would remain in Israel and buy further products, and that it was intended to float the company on the stock exchange in about a year's time, if market conditions permit it.
Biolojic Design develops treatments based on antibodies for cancer and other diseases. It has a cooperation agreement with MedImmune, the biologics research and development arm of AstraZeneca.
A company in the aMoon 1 portfolio, Mapi Pharma, recently signed a strategic agreement with Mylan, the term of which have not been made public, but which according to Schindel will answer all Mapi Pharma's cash needs until completion of a Phase II trial for its leading product.
Schindel continues to manage the investments of all three funds, together with a team that is expected to double in size within a short time. The partners in the fund are Isaac Devash, formerly a managing partner at the Renaissance fund and an experienced investment banker, among other places at Credit Suisse, and Todd Sone, formerly managing director at Signet Healthcare Partners, who immigrated to Israel and joined the fund.
Among other members of the aMoon team are Guy Spigelman, who managed PresenTense, a network of start-up accelerators, and who is aMoon's "entrepreneur in residence", and Dr. Tomer Berkovitz, formerly CFO and COO of Alcobra, and before that at investment bank JP Morgan.
The aMoon 2 fund plans to make fifteen investments, not just in Israeli companies, although Schindler says that "there are more than enough companies in Israel at advanced stages that are suitable for investment by us."
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on April 17, 2018
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