Amplitude holds second close of health fund, adds Nancy Harrison as venture partner

amplitude

Amplitude Ventures, a Montréal-headquartered investment firm focused on the health and life sciences sectors, has received more than $50 million for the second close of its targeted $200 million CAD venture fund.

Amplitude declined to disclose the exact amount raised to date, but noted the fund has now reached around $150 million or 75 percent of its target. When Amplitude announced the fund and its first close in November it noted that around $100 million had been raised.

“We seem to be doing the right things to be able to bring on people with the brass and the expertise of Nancy.”

Seven new investors joined the fund as part of the second close, including Fondaction, Ontario Capital Growth Corporation, and Vancity. The firm noted that it also received “substantial additional investments” from Le Fonds de solidarité FTQ, Investissement Québec, and CDP Investissements, all of which invested as part of the first close of the fund.
 

The Montréal firm is a spin-out of the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), and is led and founded by the former healthcare investing team at BDC Capital, Jean-François Pariseau and Dion Madsen. BDC is, notably, a “cornerstone investor” in Amplitude’s fund.

Pariseau told BetaKit the support of the investors “is a reflection that validated our thesis and [shows] that the sector is very strong right now.”

In addition to announcing its second close, Amplitude also publicly announced that Nancy Harrison has joined its team as venture partner. The former director of Knight Therapeutics and current board member of LifeSciences BC, Harrison brings more than 30 years of experience as a venture capital investor and operator in the life sciences industry.

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Harrison has already been active with the firm, working with Amplitude over the past couple of months. The investor and entrepreneur spent more than 14 years as a partner of notable VC firm Venture West, which raised $700 million across eight funds during the 40 years it operated. Harrison currently works in leadership and mentorship roles for Creative Destruction Lab, adMare BioInnovations, Canada’s Digital Technology Supercluster, and Genome BC, among others.

Pariseau and Madsen noted they have known Harrison for their entire venture careers, and called her a strong addition to the Amplitude team.

“I always felt very lucky to have the opportunity to work with her and having … [her] joining our firm now is such a realization that we seem to be doing the right things to be able to bring on people with the brass and the expertise of Nancy,” said Pariseau.

“I’m a little bit like a kid in a candy store when it comes to looking at technologies and meeting entrepreneurs,” Harrison told BetaKit. “It’s always been a passion of mine, whether it was at Ventures West, through Creative Destruction Labs, or the boards I sit on mentoring companies … [I’m] super excited about some of the technologies in Vancouver and Toronto, Montreal, and our other big centers, and I’m excited to work with [Amplitude].”

“If anything, COVID has really heightened the interest in the sector, and specifically around precision medicine.”

Amplitude invests with a focus on specific verticals within precision health, a field that exists at the intersection of tech and healthcare, taking a big-data approach to disease prevention and detection. One of the fund’s first investments was Repare Therapeutics, which recently went public on the Nasdaq, becoming the largest-ever initial public offering of a Canadian biotech.
 

Amplitude also participated in the $40 million Series B of Deep Genomics, announced in January. Madsen told BetaKit the firm, which was operational prior to its official launch in November, has deployed approximately 10 percent of its existing capital to date.

The precision health-focused firm operates on a couple of investment models. Along with making traditional investments in existing companies, Amplitude also looks to build healthtech companies, with a heavy focus on intellectual property (IP) – something that has long played an integral role in the healthcare industry.

Amplitude looks to source very early-stage companies, ideas, or projects focused on precision health, that have strong potential to license IP. From there they invest and look to build out a company that can quickly scale.

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Madsen noted that the firm’s strategy in its first year is to create between three to five brand new companies, as well as invest in around eight companies in the Series A and B stages and three in the later stage.

“In all the three buckets,” said Pariseau, referring to the creation, Series A to B, and later-stage investments. “We always have the same intent; very rapidly growing the IP and the pipeline of products, acquire talent, and grow very rapidly on the international market.”

Amplitude is currently working to build a number of companies, including one that is in stealth mode and another that is in collaboration with international partners. Pariseau noted that the stealth mode company, which Amplitude is set to close investment on shortly, is utilizing IP that comes from a Canadian university.

The importance of investing in healthtech is something that has been emphasized amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In Canada, many companies have been involved in using technology to help fight the virus and find a vaccine. Of late, a number of biotech companies have also gone public, to much success.

“If anything, COVID has really heightened the interest in the sector, and specifically around precision medicine,” said Madsen.

Speaking with BetaKit, Harrison added, “COVID has really shown us how amazingly together the life sciences community can be when we’re more focused on the common goal. And the collaboration and the speed of development that’s going on is really truly revolutionary. I think we won’t go back from that.”

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Pariseau noted that while this may be the case the pandemic has not changed how Amplitude invests, noting the firm is looking to “stay the course” on what its co-founders have been investing in over the past number of years with Amplitude and BDC.

“Our execution is really about how to de-risk things,” said Harrison, referring to finding solutions for healthcare problems and diseases. “COVID has just accelerated that, but it’s shown us that [Amplitude is] … in the right ballpark.”

The Amplitude co-founders were mum on when they expect the final close for the $200 million fund. They noted that Amplitude is still actively fundraising and while COVID-19 has slowed down processes by requiring virtual processes, potential investors are still showing “very strong interest” in the precision health sector.

Meagan Simpson

Meagan Simpson

Meagan is the Associate Editor for BetaKit. A tech writer that is super proud to showcase the Canadian tech scene. Background in almost every type of journalism from sports to politics. Podcast and Harry Potter nerd, photographer and crazy cat lady.