Li Ka-Shing’s Horizon Ventures co-leads $40m round in infant probiotic firm Evolve

Evolve BioSystems
Evolve BioSystems' flagship infant probiotic product Evivo. Photo from company website.

Horizon Ventures, the private investment arm of Hong Kong-based billionaire Li Ka-shing, has co-led a $40-million Series C funding round in US-based infant gut microbiome company Evolve BioSystems.

Horizon joined the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in leading the funding round, which also saw the participation of new investors Johnson & Johnson Innovation, Arla Foods, and Continental Grain Company.

The funding round was also participated by Evolve’s existing investors, including Tate & Lyle Ventures, Alta Ventures, Spruce Ventures, Acre Ventures, and Bow Capital.

Evolve Biosystems said the fresh funds will be used to expand the availability of the company’s flagship infant probiotic product, Evivo, in the US and worldwide.

“The new financing will also support efforts to develop new products for different age segments beyond infants and accelerate company efforts to bring to market the first-of-its-kind microbiome diagnostic test,” the company said in a statement.

Evolve said Evivo is an activated form of the beneficial bacteria Bifidobacterium longum subsp. infantis, which is clinically proven to restore the key beneficial bacteria to the infant gut microbiome, reducing potentially pathogenic bacteria by 80 per cent.

According to a study cited by Evolve BioSystems, severe acute malnutrition affects 16 million children worldwide, making them nine times more likely to die than well-nourished children.

“Evolve and the Gates Foundation will further expand their partnership, announced in April, to investigate how Evivo can help infants suffering from severe acute malnutrition (SAM) through the restoration of the gut microbiome,” the company said.

With the fresh funds, Evolve said it will look to expand its presence beyond North America and break into new markets where newborns are also missing B infantis. Its partnership with Hong Kong-based Horizons Ventures could pave the way for Evolve to enter the Asian market.

Patrick Zhang, lead investor at Horizons Ventures and Evolve BioSystems Board member, said Evolve has the potential to make “tremendous societal impact” on restoring the infant gut microbiome, particularly in Asia.

Horizons Ventures recently took the lead in an $18-million series A1 financing round in artificial intelligence (AI) services startup Kneron, which has so far raised a total of more than $33 million in funding.

It also backed a $6-million seed round in remote-controlled autonomous car platform Scotty Labs, joining Gradient Ventures, an early-stage venture fund within Google, and US-based early-stage venture fund Hemi Ventures in the round.

Also Read:

Gaming hardware brand Razer partners 3Group, secures $50m from Horizon Ventures

Li Ka-Shing’s Horizon Ventures leads $23m series A round in Divergent 3D