Anterra and Pontifax join $30m Series B biotech raise

Rabobank spin-out Anterra Capital has put a founding partner on gene-editing company Caribou's board.

Agtech-focused venture capital firms Anterra Capital and Pontifax AgTech have taken part in a $30 million Series B raise for biotech company Caribou Biosciences.

The company focuses on CRISPR (clustered regularly-interspaced short palindromic repeat) gene editing technology, looking at its agricultural and therapeutics applications.

Healthcare specialist Heritage Group, which closed its $220 million Heritage Healthcare Innovation Fund II fund in April, invested for the first time, as did technology-focused firm Maverick Capital Ventures.

Existing investors F-Prime Capital Partners, Novartis, Mission Bay Capital and 5 Prime Ventures also participated in the raise.

Anterra Capital invests across the food supply chain in technology-driven companies, and usually puts in up to $20 million, taking a significant minority position. Its founding partner Philip Austin has joined Caribou Biosciences’ board of directors. He previously worked at Rabo Ventures, where his work included applying biotech to food and agri investment.

So far, Caribou has predominantly focused on applying CRISPR technology to therapeutics and biological research.

“Caribou’s CRISPR-Cas platform offers unparalleled precision and speed of genome engineering. This technology is already leading to novel ways of treating previously incurable human diseases. We see the same transformative potential in agriculture,” said Austin.

The development of CRISPR, which allows developers to dramatically speed up editing genome sequences, could lead to a new generation of biotech, with a more complex array of genetic traits reaching the market.

“I think that novel traits that increase yield or energy content are going to see considerable growth. Doing full genome selections and creating predictive models for assembling the best genomes is a minor revolution in agriculture,” Finistere Ventures Spencer Maughan recently told Agri Investor.

Anterra spun out from Rabobank’s investment arm Rabo Private Equity in 2013, and has offices in Amsterdam and Boston. The firm reached a final close on $125 million in March, led by Eight Roads, the investment arm of Fidelity International Limited.

Pontifax AgTech, Israeli biotech firm Pontifax’s fifth life sciences fund, has offices in both Israel and the US. The firm focuses on growth-stage companies in food, agtech, software, biotech and supply chain companies in the agriculture value chain.