Written by Jürgen Eckhardt, Head of Leaps by Bayer
We regularly explore how our investment approach can drive greater impact. Updating our 10 leaps is part of this evolution.
Our leaps are the core of our investment approach at Leaps by Bayer. They reflect huge challenges we see in the world and provide a north star for impact. But shouldn’t ambitions like our leaps be immutable and eternal? Not when technology, our capabilities, and our world are constantly evolving. Our 10 leaps are defined by:
1) The biggest challenges where the Bio Revolution and related technologies can make an impact.
2) The state of breakthrough technologies that could shift the paradigms in our industry from treatment to cure in health, and from more to better in agriculture.
3) Bayer’s ability and responsibility to address these huge challenges, based on more than 150 years of experience in the life sciences.
Much has changed since we first defined our 10 leaps. The seismic impact of the pandemic has exposed huge unmet needs in health, and we must address these with new urgency. The blinding pace of scientific innovation took center stage through vaccine development, and related advances open new pathways towards preventing and curing diseases. The effects of climate change are also becoming apparent, and agriculture must be part of a transformative, unprecedented solution to this next major global crisis. What’s more, as a life science leader, Bayer is evolving new expertise that we can contribute meaningfully to solving these problems — from decarbonizing farming to cell and gene therapy.
As we chart our course for the next few years, we have decided to update our 10 Leaps to solidify our dedication to addressing these new challenges.
Please meet our updated 10 Leaps:
Health: An expanded focus on indications and platform-based solutions
Perhaps the most notable change is Leap 05/ Protect brain and mind, which brings new attention to mental health, neurogenerative, and neurodevelopmental diseases. These disorders affect more than 1 billion people globally, yet extremely limited treatment options are available today. The importance of mental health became clear through our work with the Happiness Research Institute in developing our Return for Humanity metrics. The crucial role of mental health was reinforced by the pandemic, when reporting of symptoms of anxiety and depression grew significantly. Platforms we’ve long been exploring — like the human microbiome and the gut-brain axis — are showing promise in addressing a range of brain and mental health disorders, opening new avenues of research and potential treatments. Cell and gene therapies are also accelerating progress against neurogenerative diseases, as we’ve seen with BlueRock Therapeutics, one of the first Leaps joint ventures. Their therapy for Parkinson’s disease (currently in Phase 1 trials) recently received fast track designation from the FDA. These advances drive us to go further in finding promising companies and platforms that can help address these vast and unmet needs.
We are also sharpening our focus on digital health solutions with Leap 10/ Transform health with data, with an eye on the tools that could make personalized and preventative medicine a reality. As sensors in our homes and devices proliferate and at-home diagnostics improve, we are seeing portfolio companies like Huma, One Drop, and Ada Health build powerful partnerships, transforming data into actionable insight. We are also excited by the potential for AI, machine learning, and diverse data sets to revolutionize drug discovery, as pioneers like Recursion demonstrate. In another example, portfolio company Metagenomi is using its metagenomics-powered discovery and analytics platform to unlock novel cellular machinery that can drive the development of new therapeutic tools. Edifice, a spinout of Stanford’s 1000 Immunomes Project, is using its AI-powered technology to develop personalized approaches to address inflammation and chronic disease. I’m tremendously excited to see these diverse approaches evolve.
Agriculture: a nuanced approach to nourishing people without starving the planet
Agriculture is the second=largest contributor to greenhouse gas and consumes more than 70% of the world’s fresh water. While world hunger has been in decline for decades, obesity rates have tripled, and a poor diet plays a role in one in five deaths. We need a nuanced vision, a much broader toolset, and immediate action to tackle the interlocking challenges of climate change, increasingly complex food systems, and diminishing biodiversity.
With Leap 07/ Provide next=generation healthy crops, we aim to tackle a monumental challenge — to dramatically increase the quality, diversity, accessibility, safety, and nutrition of the food we grow, while also reducing the use of land, water, and other inputs. Portfolio company Sound Agriculture has developed next-generation breeding tools that could produce crops that are more nutritious and flavorful, require fewer inputs, and stay fresh longer, potentially breaking down cost and access barriers to fresh produce.
Leap 09/ Prevent food and crop loss aims to develop smart tools to address another huge problem: about one-third of food is wasted before it’s even eaten or sold. The global pandemic has shed light on the long and complex supply chains that bring us our food, and extreme weather events further threaten the resilience of these operations. EarthOptics, one of the latest additions to our portfolio, helps farmers manage soil for long-term health so that land can produce consistently both today and in the future. Their digital systems help farmers reduce inputs while securing crop yields. We seek out digital business models that link farmers to markets, increase consumer access and build trust to improve crop traceability, which could reduce food loss.
Our commitment to investing in transformative new companies remains as strong as ever: to date, we’ve invested $1.5B in a portfolio of over 45 companies. Our belief that man-made problems will be best addressed with man-made innovation remains core to our approach. No single innovation or investment will solve such monumental challenges. But by breaking down complex problems and working collaboratively with the brightest minds in our field, we are highly optimistic about the impact we can achieve.