Photo Credit: Video screenshot from Roivant website
US-based Roivant Sciences, the biotech company funded by Indian-origin entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, has raised $1.1 billion from Softbank and other existing investors. The Basel, Switzerland-based company, founded three years ago by Ramaswamy, aims to be a huge holding company for several independent pharmaceutical companies. The Manhattan-based entrepreneur turned 32 on August 9, the day the latest investment round was held.
The latest investment makes its funding cross $2.5 billion across the group of subsidiaries. Ramaswamy, a biology major at Harvard who received a degree in law from Yale and then worked as a hedge fund analyst, says the development shows the company’s ambition in the field of medicine research. “The ball’s in our court,” he told Business Insider. “I believe the pharma company of the future isn’t going to be old-school,” he said, adding that he plans to integrate the pharma sector with technology and data to boost research.
Roivant also unveiled a new subsidiary, Datavant, through which it aims to aggregate clinical trial data from researchers to accelerate drug development.
Treating Alzheimer’s Disease
Roivant Sciences identifies promising drugs that have been abandoned by other pharmaceutical firms for various reasons other than their efficacy. The company has until now launched five subsidiaries, of which two went public in the last two years. Axovant, which works on cure for Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases, and women’s health company Myovant Sciences were the biggest initial public offerings in American biotechnology in 2015 and 2016, with $360 million and $218 million, respectively.
Ramaswamy has been making headlines for planning to speed drug research to cure Alzheimer’s disease. Terming dementia as a “a ticking time bomb”, Ramaswamy had talked about the emotional and economic threat of the disease in an interview with Forbes in March this year. “It’s a great disappointment as a leader in the biotech industry that with all the amazing things the drug industry has done in the last couple of decades, we have not made a single major advance, have not developed a single new chemical entity approved for the treatment for Alzheimer’s disease,” he had said. The company plans to release the phase 3 clinical trial results for the dementia drug candidate, intepirdine next month, which will be a test of its commercial viability.
Growing up Years
Ramaswamy was ranked 24th in Forbes magazine’s list of richest American entrepreneurs under 40 in 2016. The magazine put his net worth at $600 million. Born in Cincinnati in a family that originally belongs to Kerala, the accomplished pianist grew up playing music for the Alzheimer’s patients whom her geriatric psychiatrist mother Geetha treated. Ramaswamy also excelled in sports as a child, becoming a nationally ranked junior tennis player with a massive serve reaching 120mph.
His father Vivek Ganapathy, a graduate from the Regional Engineering College in Kerala, worked at General Electric while his mother studied at Mysore Medical College. Ramaswamy is a vegetarian, has visited India many times, and has even hiked in the Himalayas, the Times of India reported quoting sources. He is married to Indian-American physician Apoorva.
Ramaswamy appeared on the cover of Forbes in 2015, for a story that delved into how he built his billion-dollar biotech firm. The feature talked about how Ramaswamy, then 29 years old, had cancelled his honeymoon plans to hike in the French and Swiss Alps, and instead “brought his new bride to stand beside him as he rang the bell of the New York Stock Exchange to launch the biggest initial public offering in the history of the American biotechnology industry. What could be more romantic than a few hundred million in paper gains in a single day?”
Well, as the $1.1 billion SoftBank funding shows, the romance clearly is going strong.