Investment

Some private investors are poised to make a lot of money from a coronavirus vaccine

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How close is the world to developing a safe and effective vaccine to thwart coronavirus is a question uppermost in everyone’s minds. Some companies look to be close – and they’re backed by a number of private investors who stand to make a lot if these companies get their first.  

Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Moderna Therapeutics might be the closest to doing so. It has recently sent the first batches of its coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine to the US-based National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for testing on human testing. Full testing on humans is expected to start in April. It could take at least another 90 days after that before the vaccine’s approved for use among the general population. 

Three of the world’s biggest family offices are located in the US epicentre of coronavirus

But Moderna could be the first, or close to the first. The biotech group listed at the end of 2018 and was mostly backed by governments and big pharma investors. But it was also backed by two Swiss family-owned private banks, Pictet and Julius Baer. 

The banks, which have a lot of ultra-high net worth clients, invested in Moderna just before the biotech group listed. Also backing Moderna at the same time was Alexandria Venture Investments, an investment group and fund run by Los Angeles-based real estate developer Joel Marcus. 

Also racing to develop a vaccine for COVID-19 is biotech company Codagenix. Reports suggest the Long Island-based group might be around 10 weeks away from testing a vaccine. The group is backed by Jim Simons’ family office Euclidean Capital, and his family office reportedly owns 25% of Codagenix. 

The biotech group is also backed by Long Island venture fund Topspin Partners. Topspin was started by Leo Guthart 20 years ago and backed by Simons. Topsin has recently had a few big success stories in biotech investing, including Peloton Therapeutics (bought by Merck for $1.1 billion last year) and NGM Biopharmaceuticals (listed last year and now with a market capitalisation of $1.2 billion). 

Meanwhile, it’s interesting to know that three of the world’s biggest family offices are located in the US epicentre of coronavirus. 

King County, Seattle is arguably ground zero when it comes to coronavirus in the US. The region is also home to three of the world’s wealthiest family offices, all at the forefront of backed cutting edge biotech and healthcare companies.

The county, which encompasses pretty much all of urban and suburban Seattle, is experiencing the biggest outbreak of COVID-19. 

The two deaths from the disease so far in the US have been in Seattle and the individuals have come from King County. The governor of Washington state has recently declared a state of emergency and there is now widespread concerns the virus might have been spreading for weeks in Seattle before being detected. 

Bezos Expeditions, the investment office of Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man, Cascade Investment/Gates Ventures, the investment groups of the Gates’ family and Vulcan, the investment group set up by Paul Allen and now owned by his sister Jody Allen, are all based in King County. 

All these investment groups are big investors in biotech – having a serious outbreak of coronavirus in their neighbourhood might focus their minds more than ever in the world of biotech investing. 

 

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