Versant, Celgene, to Pair Up for Early-Stage Cancer Drug Deals–CORRECTED

You certainly don’t see this every day.

Versant Ventures, the biotech and healthcare VC that manages more than $1 billion, is teaming up with Celgene Corp., the listed, New Jersey-based biopharma, in the first of what will become a series of co-investments by the financial and strategic partners.

Deal numero uno will be Quanticell Quanticel and includes a $45 million investment spread out over more than three years (over which Celgene cannot buy the company out). The company provides genomic analysis to identify predictive biomarkers for investigational drugs that its new corporate partner will provide.

“I wouldn’t rule out more deals being done,” said Brad Bolzon, managing director with Versant Ventures.

Further, Bolzon added, it is possible the VC and the strategic will team up again to back Quanticell Quanticel (or, of course, the privately-held, San Francisco-based company could be bought outright by its partner). Otherwise, the strategic collaboration will seek to discover and develop cancer drugs in the U.S. and internationally. The Versant-Celgene (Vergene? Celsant?) collaboration will focus on making early-stage investments. Bolzon said it is likely the investment team will join on more predictive medicine and technology companies in other potential transactions.

Seeing a well-seasoned VC pair off with a strategic partner is just one of the ways better-seasoned VCs in the biotech and device space can broaden their investor base, as GPs in the investment sub-sector struggle to procure capital in a difficult fundraising environment. Already, VCs are working with lawmakers to push late-stage products through a speedier approval process to avoid cumbersome regulatory requirements, and also, provide for quicker exits for the companies’ backers.

Quanticell Quanticel was founded by Stanford professors Stephen Quake and Michael Clarke.

*An earlier version of this story misspelled Quanticel.