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Investors May Want to Follow the Progress of These Biotechs

Investors may want to put on their radar screen the 15 private and independent biotech companies recognized by FierceBiotech for their novel methods to conquer a variety of diseases.

The companies can be evaluated as potential investments in a number of ways: their technology, therapeutic areas of concentration, the experience and track record of leadership and the size and reputation of their backers.

"Small, gutsy biotechs are still attracting venture capitalists, the public markets and Big Pharma suitors," Ben Adams wrote in the Sept. 23 article listing the top 15.

Among the young companies, there may be a few gems that will join their predecessors into the public markets or be acquired by a member of pharma coveting a novel platform or building its existing pipeline.

Let's look at the three of companies that made the cut.

Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Anthos Therapeutics was launched earlier this year with $250 million from The Blackstone Group, the largest alternative investment firm in the world. Its first drug candidate is a heart disease drug from Novartis (NYSE:NVS), which is still in the middle phases of clinical trials.

The sizeable Blackstone investment gives Anthos the cash needed to conduct the type of expensive cardiovascular disease studies that many biotech companies couldn't afford or had to stop because they ran out of money.

The company's first project is developing the Novartis drug that fights blood clots. Anthos thinks the medicine can prevent a range of cardiovascular issues with little or no risk of bleeding.

Anthos' CEO is John Glasspool, a 10-year veteran of Novartis, where he oversaw the company's cardiovascular and metabolism unit. He left for Baxter (NYSE:BAX) in 2012 and was later a member of the executive team at Baxalta when it was purchased by Shire, now part of Takeda (NYSE:TAK), for $32 billion.

Another biotech highlighted in the article is Black Diamond, which was launched in December 2018 with $20 million from Versant Ventures. The leading health care capital venture firm added another $85 million a month later, so Black Diamond could move its lead program into clinical trials by early next year.

Black Diamond is developing cancer treatments that attack a set of mutated genes that haven't been targeted before.

David M. Epstein, Ph.D., is the founder of Black Diamond and serves as its president and CEO. He is a recognized biopharma industry leader and was formerly chief scientific officer at Astellas Pharmaceuticals (ALPMY). He also founded biopharma company Archemix Corp.

Black Diamond currently has only 20 employees, but is looking to double that number in a year or two.

Besides Versant, Black Diamond investors include The Invus Group, New Enterprise Associates, Nextech Invest, Perceptive Advisors and RA Capital Management.

Another member of the Fierce 15 is Casma Therapeutics. After gestating for a couple years under the umbrella of biotech startup venture capital firm Third Rock, Casma was launched in May 2018 with $58.5 million.

Its goal is to develop cancer treatments aimed at autophagy, the body's way of cleaning out damaged cells in order to regenerate newer, healthier cells. The buildup of these unwanted materials leads to various ailments, including rare genetic diseases and inflammatory and neurodegenerative conditions.

"The Nobel Prize was granted in 2016 for autophagy, but as of yet, no drugs have launched in the space," Casma CEO Keith Dionne told FierceBiotech. "It is a major pathway, perhaps the major pathway, by which cells clear out all the byproducts of their function."

He added that blocking autophagy and overloading the cell with waste is one way to cause cell death, which can be useful in treating cancer.

Dionne has more than two decades of experience in leading U.S. and international biotechnology companies. He was formerly president and CEO of Constellation Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:CNST).

Disclosure: The author holds no positions in any of the companies mentioned in this article.

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This article first appeared on GuruFocus.