In 2016, Abbie Celniker was promoted to partner at Third Rock Ventures as the firm raised just over $600 million for its fourth fund. Since then, Celniker has helped usher in an additional fund and headed a few startups as interim CEO.
Coming on its 15th year, Third Rock Ventures announced its sixth fund today — and largest one by far — at a whopping $1.1 billion. Adding it all up, Third Rock has raised $3.8 billion since its inception. That money has gone to some 60 biotechs, much of it as early funding.
“Over the years, there are aspects of our approach that we are absolutely committed to sticking with,” Celniker said, noting some running themes in the biotechs in which Third Rock invests — a focus on disease areas of high unmet need, that they are almost always incubated within the firm, and that they usually begin with partners acting as interim management (such as Celniker as CEO with Goldfinch Bio and Rheos Medicines).
“That works, and we’re going to continue to do that,” she added.
But Third Rock may add some twists to the blueprint, Celniker noted, saying that this time around, the firm may invest more in later series of funding and “opportunistically invest” in companies incubated outside Third Rock.
This newest fund has eight partners, all of whom were with Third Rock for Fund V, including Celniker and Reid Huber. Last month, Third Rock partner Christoph Lengauer left to co-found Curie.bio, a ‘biotech accelerator’ in its own words, alongside former partner Alexis Borisy, who departed from Third Rock back in 2019.
Huber, former CSO at Incyte, also noted how their views on the science were evolving:
Our core focus areas will largely be maintained — that includes areas of unmet need in oncology, immunology, and rare genetic diseases, and neuroscience — but we’ll also be looking to start to explore important innovations in an area we generally call ‘engineering biology ‘, and these are therapeutics that are engineered as much as they are discovered, and that includes nucleic acid based therapies, gene therapies, cell therapies.
All in all, they have two fundamental pillars: addressing areas of unmet need and ensuring their companies were “capturing the diversity of modalities that exist today,” Huber added.