No, it’s not a case of déjà vu. Canaan Partners raised $800 million in its 12th fund to back early-stage healthcare and technology companies, equaling the sum it picked up in its 11th fund three years ago.
“As we start to invest from the new fund, we are expanding in some sectors while our focus remains the same,” the firm wrote in a blog post on Tuesday.
Part of that means identifying “massive market opportunities,” tracking down the best, most passionate entrepreneurs and investing as early as possible and working closely with its portfolio companies’ leadership teams. The other part is staying committed to areas that need the investment.
“Unfortunately, when we say things stay the same, the unmet need in some therapeutic areas still exists,” general partner Julie Grant said. “Immunology, oncology, ophthalmology, rare diseases, neurology—those are all still problems to be solved.”
When it comes to expanding into new areas, Canaan is committed to finding multifunctional compounds and harnessing the human body and cell biology to create better medicines, Grant said. Of course, that doesn’t mean Canaan will pass on, say, startups with a single asset, especially if it could be the key to cracking a tough disease.
“What you’ll see in our life science practice is we’re really pushing to be at the forefront of new targets and new modalities, and being in early,” Grant said. Some of its investments include Arrakis, which went after the “crazy” idea of drugging RNA, and Arvinas, a pioneer in the protein degradation field. Arvinas has since gone public, while Arrakis inked its first Big Pharma partnership earlier this year
Canaan joins several VC shops that have closed sizable rounds during the COVID-19 pandemic, including Longitude Capital, Atlas Venture and Arch Venture Partners.
“I think it means that society is looking to high technology and biopharma to be innovation leaders, job creators and the standard setters for society going forward,” general partner Nina Kjellson said. “The world is looking to biopharma to get us back to work, back to school and back to play safely, and I think the attention on our particular industry has given a lot of hope to folks as we look for vaccines and therapeutics.”