In Greek and Roman mythology, Apollo is the god of truth, prophecy and healing. Apollo is also the name of NASA’s human spaceflight program, which led to the first humans landing on the moon.
“I view the treatment of age-related disease as the next great challenge for humanity,” says James Peyer, one of the managing partners of Apollo Ventures.
“The last century of medicine was defined by a conquest of infectious disease and this century will be defined by the conquest of chronic, age-related disease.”
The Hamburg-based Venture Capital (VC) plans to focus exclusively on diseases that manifest as humans age: arthritis, dementia, age-related macular degeneration, hearing loss, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease and possibly diabetes.
It is not too far of a stretch to say that preventing age-related diseases ultimately leads to the prevention of ageing and death all together.
“That is the effect that happens when you get to the point of preventing the diseases of ageing,” Peyer says. “Ageing is the underlying biology that results in x-y-z diseases.”
“The kind of science we are focusing on can extend the healthy lifespan of a mouse, pushing back and delaying all of the conditions of ageing at once.”
Though Peyer would not share how much money Apollo has to invest in early stage companies, they’ll be making their first two investments in quarter one, he says.
An international focus is unique to the VC, which started in June 2016. Peyer says they will focus 60 per cent of their efforts in the EU and 40 per cent in the US. They hope to fill in where overly-cautious German VC’s leave off.
“The quality of science done in Europe is incredibly high, but the number of companies being spun out is low. We see this as a huge opportunity, where we can come in and provide the structure and entrepreneurial spirit that says, ‘Hey, this is super cool science. Let’s set something up around this.’”
Apollo joins Project A as another player in the healthcare arena.
Peyer, who was recruited from New York to Hamburg by Nils Regge, works alongside the TruVenturo founder and two other investors, Ole Mensching and Alexandra Bause.
The companies they invest in will be similar to Unity Biotechnology, a US company that secured a 116 million dollar series B financing round with the help of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Peyer shares.
“We don’t plan to hold those companies all the way through to the IPO.”
While working for McKinsey and Company, he noted a “fascinating trend”: Large pharmaceutical companies, like Bayer and Novartis, are not so much competitors, but more like customers. And these companies have “huge budgets for acquisition activity.”
The life cycle of new medicines has several stages, Peyer explains. It starts in a laboratory, then early stage investors, like Apollo, help set up a company around the research, and lastly the pharma companies “take the drug across the finish line,” either through partnerships or acquisition.