- A biotech company founded by 32-year-old Indian-origin entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy has raised $1.1 billion
- This is one of the largest ever fundings in the life sciences sector
- The funding was led by Japanese behemoth Softbank and other existing investors
BENGALURU: A biotech company founded by 32-year-old Indian-origin entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy has raised $1.1 billion, one of the largest ever fundings in the life sciences sector. The funding was led by Japanese behemoth Softbank and other existing investors.
Ramaswamy’s US-based Roivant Sciences group of companies has five subsidiaries focused on different disease areas – Axovant for neurology, Myovant for women’s health and endocrine diseases, Enzyvant for rare diseases, Dermavant for dermatology, and Urovant for urology.
Roivant identifies medicines of other companies that are unable to advance due to strategic or financial constraints. After the handovers, Roivant’s clinical development teams initiate clinical and non-clinical studies and create a win-win proposition for both parties.
Ramaswamy was ranked the 24th richest American entrepreneur under 40 in Forbes magazine’s 2016 rankings. The magazine put his net worth at $600 million.
Ramaswamy’s family is originally from Kerala, though some of them speak Tamil. His father Vivek Ganapathy graduated from the Regional Engineering College in Kerala, and later worked at General Electric. His mother Geetha graduated from Mysore Medical College, and went on to be a geriatric psychiatrist.
Ramaswamy was born in 1985 in Cincinnati, Ohio, according to Wikipedia. He attended Harvard College where he graduated summa cum laude (highest academic distinction) with an AB (Bachelor of Arts) in biology. He also holds a JD (Juris Doctor or doctorate degree) from Yale Law School. He was a nationally ranked junior tennis player in high school in Cincinnati.
Sources close to Ramaswamy said he is a vegetarian, has visited India many times, and has even hiked in the Himalayas. He is married to Apoorva, an Indian-American physician.
In 2007, he co-founded and served as president of Campus Venture Network, a technology company that was acquired in 2009 by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. He then worked at hedge fund QVT Financial from 2007 to 2014, where he was a partner and co-managed the firm’s biotech portfolio.
A recent TechCrunch article said that as part of his work at QVT, Ramaswamy observed how big pharma firms would abandon promising drugs due to various reasons that was not related to the efficacy of the drugs. “Having earned the trust of QVT was key. The firm, along with Dexcel Pharma, an Israeli firm that reviewed Ramaswamy’s work at QVT, provided Ramaswamy’s new holding company with just less than $100 million in capital – a feat, given that he was just 28 years old at the time,” TechCrunch wrote.
The TechCrunch article noted that while Silicon Valley has obsessed over Theranos, the health tech company whose fortunes came crashing down last year, “Ramaswamy has acquired a dozen drugs, including an Alzheimer’s pill that’s now named intepirdine. He also formed a company around that drug, Axovant Sciences, and took it public in 2015…”
Ramaswamy learned about Alzheimer’s from a young age. He would join his mother, on trips to local nursing homes and play the piano for residents with dementia, according to an article on the website of The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans, the organisation that supported Ramaswamy’s education at Yale.
“I would not have had the same personal commitment to Alzheimer’s disease if it had not been for my mother and my upbringing,” Ramaswamy is quoted as saying.
Currently, Roivant’s pipeline has 14 drugs. The firm will use the fresh funding to launch new companies outside of traditional biopharmaceutical development. It counts Takeda, GSK and Merck as partners to develop new medicines. Akshay Naheta, managing director of SoftBank Group International, said Roivant has attracted world-class talent in its pursuit of developing and commercialising drugs that target large unmet medical needs.
Ramaswamy said SoftBank would add significant strategic value to Roivant in the next phase of its growth.