Glycofi was sourced by Boston Millennia as a result of two of the partners’ close relationship with Dartmouth College Professor and Founder, Charles Hutchinson. When the company sought to raise outside capital it contacted three Dartmouth College investors active in Private investing; Boston Millennia Partners, SV Life Sciences, and Polaris Ventures Partners. GlycoFi began in the laboratory at Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth University in 2000. The conventional method of producing protein drugs involves mammalian cell reactors that makes use of a cell type known as a CHO cell, which is able to put sugars on the protein backbone (a process known as glycosylation) so that the result does not generate an immune response in humans. Production lines based on this technology are expensive to build and difficult to scale. It was natural to look for protein expression technologies that were more efficient “factories” than CHO cells but which also glycosylated the therapeutic protein correctly. The Boston Millennia Partners team became interested in the company in late 2001 and invested in the first institutional financing round in early 2002.
After our initial investment, we served on the Board of Directors of GlycoFi and were integral to the strategic development of the company. As an early stage company, augmenting the management team was a critical requirement needed for success. BMP identified and sourced a new CEO to lead the company who had deep pharmaceutical manufacturing experience from Biogen. We worked with the management team and Board to advance the technology to meet market demands, and helped to establish strategic partnerships, including partnering agreements achieved with Merck & Co., Eli Lily and Company and others, to validate the technology, and provide strategic equity financing and revenue for the company. In addition, Boston Millennia supported and helped to raise $30,000,000 in additional financing for the company. In January 2006, GlycoFi scientists published an article in Nature Biotechnology which demonstrated the company’s ability to produce glycoforms of the antibody in Genentech’s cancer cell killer, Rituxin®. Following the publication of that success, GlycoFi was acquired by Merck & Co. for $400,000,000 in cash, after an active solicitation process from several pharmaceutical companies. The decision to sell the company was debated among board members as the upside as an independent company was significant but the risks were also numerous. We were able to convince the board members and management that the partnership with Merck would advance the science and the company best and also offer a very strong 1000% return on the investors’ capital. According to the National Venture Capital Association, the transaction realized the third highest price ever paid for a private biotechnology company. Boston Millennia Partners investors received a 10X return on their investment in GlycoFi, Inc.