Atlas and Monsanto the Latest VC and Big Co. Getting Close

Xconomy Boston — 

Cambridge, MA-based Atlas Venture and the agribusiness giant Monsanto (NYSE: MON) are working together to find interesting life sciences investments to complement Monsanto’s agriculture business, Monsanto said today. It’s another case of venture firms working with large companies at an early stage.

While no financial terms of the agreement were disclosed, the companies called this deal a “multi-year collaboration.” St. Louis-based Monsanto says it wants Atlas’s help in scouting investments in the areas of genomics, informatics, and biology. In return, Atlas says it will gain additional technology capabilities and valuable insights from an industry heavyweight that it can use during its own investment process. It also wouldn’t be surprising if Monsanto chose to make a strategic investment or two in early-stage companies found in Atlas’ portfolio.

We’ve seen big companies working closely with venture firms and startups an early stage before. For example, Boston-based PureTech Ventures has formed collaborations with Big Pharma companies to support its portfolio firm Enlight Biosciences, which develops technologies to advance drug companies’ research and development productivity and efficiency. At six-year-old Aileron Therapeutics, a developer of so-called “stapled peptide” drugs, the company has taken investments from the VC arms of four Big Pharmas (Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, and Roche) and has two of them (Novartis and Glaxo) represented on its board of directors, according to the company.

“By applying Monsanto’s research-based approach to innovation in agriculture to evaluating new life sciences technologies, we’ll be able to access technology platforms and deep expertise right from the beginning of the company building process,” Jean-Francois Formela, a partner at Atlas, said in a statement. “The collaboration is truly synergistic and leverages each group’s core competency and expertise.”