A life sciences VC just raised $616 million to find the next big thing in medicine

Bio abbie celniker lgThird Rock VenturesThird Rock Ventures partner Abbie Celniker

Finding the next big idea in biotech is no small feat.

But it’s something investors are eager to pour money into. On Monday, Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Third Rock Ventures launched its fourth fund with $616 million, its biggest to date. Business Insider spoke to Abbie Celniker, who’s joining Third Rock as a partner on the new fund.

Celniker told Business Insider that the focus of this fourth fund will be on “product engine companies” that will be set up to create more than one finished drug or technology platform, with the plan to fund 10 companies.

Third Rock’s approach to starting companies is to focus on building their leadership teams so that the founders can focus on the science. Celniker is no stranger to heading up companies: before joining Third Rock, she was CEO of Eleven Biotherapeutics and Taligen Therapeutics, until it was acquired by Alexion in 2011. This time around, she told Business Insider, her priority will be to invest wholly in series A rounds.

“We have to make sure they have the right infrastructure, a great team and pipeline,” Celniker said. “We want to be the ones who see the benefit of that.”

Celniker the fund may be investing in areas like new approaches to cancer treatments, rare diseases, and neurodegenerative diseases.

Third Rock will mainly be working with startups in the earliest stages of drug development. Still, the national debate around drug pricing plays a role in who the firm chooses to invest in, according to Celniker.

“The paradigm for Third Rock is to invest in very disruptive, innovative technologies and therapeutics,” she said. “When you’re working on something meeting a need that’s never been met before, that’s authentic value being brought to the patients. That kind of approach tends to get out of the noise of pricing.”

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