Flagship Pioneering Overview: How Does the Company Invest in the Life Sciences?
Last updated on July 26, 2022 by
Flagship Pioneering Combines Creativity, Expertise, & More
Researchers believe that there is some relationship between R&D funding, the production of scientific knowledge, and the effects of this knowledge on socioeconomic outcomes.
High-throughput and impactful discoveries require a group of excellent scientific minds and the support of funding. Over the years, it has been observed that funding for scientific discoveries has shaped the kind of ideas or hypotheses proposed by scientists. Funders and investors of science look for projects that are relevant and life-changing for society.
Among the many players in venture capital firms, one of the most popular is Flagship Pioneering.
Flagship Pioneering is an American life science venture capital company located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and founded in 2000 by Noubar Afeyan, Ph.D. He is also the current chief executive officer (CEO) of the company.
Other key players and executives of the venture include Lovisa Afezelius (origination partner), Christopher Austin (CEO-partner), Robert Berendes (Executive partner), Stephen Berenson (Managing partner), David Berry (General partner), and Ara Darzi (Chairman, Preemptive Medicine And Health Security Initiative).
The Flagship lab and team work towards conceiving, resourcing, and building life science companies that invent breakthrough technologies to transform healthcare and sustainability. This article brings you all the information about Flagship Pioneering, its funded companies, and how it works to bring revolutionary solutions to life science and biotech entrepreneurs.
Flagship Pioneering Companies
Flagship Ventures works on eight major principles to create, resource, and build the next generation of life science companies to bring innovative scientific technologies and solve life-threatening health problems.
Flagship Pioneering was actually one of the investors behind the COVID-19 vaccine manufacturer, Moderna. It also recently raised a $3.4 billion capital pool. In an interview with Forbes, it’s said that Flagship is likely to create some 20 to 25 new companies during the lifecycle of this capital pool.
Flagship’s eight principles include:
- Pioneer through harnessing science and entrepreneurialism to envision alternative futures by developing evolutionary methodology.
- Believe in achieving pioneering by communicating and replicating an idea through a team.
- Attract, develop, and retain top scientific, entrepreneurial, and managerial talents in the world.
- Form top-class companies by combining innovative capacity, entrepreneurial leadership, and professional capital management in a single enterprise.
- Take responsibility for their long-term success by providing them with the full resources of their ecosystem.
- Conceive solutions far beyond what is current in the present market and continuously innovating what people seek.
- Found businesses that own patented platforms, enabling years of products across multiple areas.
- Create world-class innovative and valuable life science companies to deliver exceptional returns to their capital partners.
These eight principles led to the foundation of startups and other new companies that are extraordinary in their efforts to bring innovative solutions for healthcare challenges. The list of such companies are given below:
- Axcella Health
- CiBO Technologies
- Codiak Biosciences
- Cygnal Therapeutics
- Denali Therapeutics
- EcoSense Lighting
- Evelo Biosciences
- Foghorn Therapeutics
- Generate Biomedicines
- Inari Agriculture
- Incredible Foods
- Indigo Agriculture
- Invaio Sciences
- Inzen Therapeutics
- Kaleido Biosciences
- KSQ Therapeutics
- Midori Health
- Omega Therapeutics
- Repertoire Immune Medicines
- Ring Therapeutics
- Rubius Therapeutics
- Sana Biotechnology
- Senda Biosciences
- Seres Therapeutics
- Seventh Sense Biosystems
- Sigilon Therapeutics
- Syros Pharmaceuticals
- Tessera Therapeutics
How Does Flagship Pioneering Work?
In Flagship Pioneering’s words:
“Pioneering is being the first to create valuable ideas by directing scientific innovation and entrepreneurship at unknown spaces, far beyond the adjacencies that incumbents pursue.”
The company believes pioneering is a process that can be taught, learned, and replicated. They work as a team to create a hypothesis and direct it to a transformational outcome. The whole process involves four phases:
- In this phase, Flagship labs explore the possibility of “what ifs?”. The entrepreneurial scientists let the hypothesis evolve until a possible breakthrough hypothesis is created through variation and selection.
- This is done by collaborating with external experts who also determine the strength and weaknesses of these concepts. The company calls the process “explorations”. Typically, 80-100 of the imaginative inquiries are explored per year.
- The promising hypothesis or explorations from the previous phase proceed to this stage. These explorations become prototype companies or “ProtoCos” and are assigned a number (FL1, FL2, FL3,…FLn) according to their places in the series of Flagship Lab ventures.
- In this phase, the ProtoCos from the previous stage are tested and discontinued if they can’t validate their science in labs. Flagship Pioneering has called the process of conception, iteration, and launch of a new company around a distinct breakthrough, “origination”. The company creates 8-10 ProtoCos every year.
- In this phase, a ProtoCo becomes NewCo if it converts the question of “What ifs…” to “It turns out…”. The NewCo is given a name and significant capital commitment from Flagship to develop proprietary platforms for breakthroughs and innovations.
- The NewCo then recruits a board of directors, CEO, and leadership team. Flagship Pioneering forms 6-8 NewCos on a yearly basis.
- Once the NewCo is developed, it becomes a growth company called a “GrowthCo”. Then, its leaders attract outside investors, forges partnerships, and builds a business that creates extraordinary future value.
- These companies often operate as public companies. Since 2013, twenty of Flagship Pioneering’s GrowthCo have completed initial public offerings (IPO).
Image: An illustration of four consecutive phases of Flagship’s process for Pioneering.
Source: Flagship Pioneering
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Flagship Pioneering is a venture capital company and a team of pioneering scientists and professionals investing in life sciences and biotech companies. It uses its custom-designed pioneering processes—explorations, ProtoCo, NewCo, and GrowthCo—to build companies that transform human health and sustainability.
Making breakthroughs not only requires a team of talented and knowledge-building people on scientific ground, but it also requires a continuous flow of funds.
To earn funding from different agencies and institutes is meticulous work. It affects labs’ studies and can even delay research.
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