Open letter to Pharma: Embrace emergent technologies and jettison methodological orthodoxy

I write this wearing two hats. One, of a troubled New York resident experiencing the calamity from coronavirus, anxiously anticipating any news for a cure or vaccine; the other, of a technology investor helping to build deeply technical, often biotechnology-focused companies.

A recent study of drugs in active clinical trials for SARS-CoV-2: 0.0 represents no deviation, 1.0 represents a complete recovery, and a negative value indicates decrease in cellular health. Note: this is just one unbiased “phenotypic” model, though retrospective analyses of decreasing clinical success rates strongly corroborate these results

Recursion Pharma, where I sit on the board, published a recent blinded study assessing the efficacy of over 50 ongoing clinical trials for cures against coronavirus. The results? A near perfect bell curve with the mean being only slightly better than having done nothing at all. Despite the…


Below, slides from a talk I gave at Stanford’s Symbolic System Forum in early Dec 2018.


I first met Sean at a coffee shop in Potrero Hill in 2014. Sean had just left Quid where he’d been CTO and cofounder. I’d just joined Lux. We spoke about the future of ML and AI, whether “deep learning was real” (in 2014, still an open question!), and what would come post the renaissance in computer vision (we both settled on computers understanding language). Emails, calls, more coffees, and a Lux sponsored seed round later and Sean had built a vision for Primer: to leverage Natural Language Processing and Natural Language Generation to accelerate human understanding of the world.

Bridging the gap between exponentially growing data, and linearly scalable human resources


Almost everything these days has a circuit board inside. Tempo combines machine learning and robotics to crank them out faster and error-free.

Whether you’re building cell phones, drones, security cameras, rockets or driverless cars, you’re gonna’ need a circuit board to make it run. Traditionally, you would send out your design to a mom-and-pop shop to get the boards made. You’d call them up on the phone, wait 48 hours for a quote, then exchange an average of 35 emails and calls to sort out the process. After all that, you need to wait three weeks for them to hand-assemble…


Lux’s investment in Blockstack’s Series A and Token Offering

I first heard of Bitcoin in 2013. While today’s macro political environment throws one huge story after another, in 2013 large black swan events were still … well, black swan; rare. One of these events had just occurred: Over levered banks in Cyprus banks had rapidly declared insolvency amidst a global recession. The EU and IMF were racing to structure bailouts, including freezing residents’ accounts and tapping into them as part of the process. Cyprus residents had lost faith in the local currency, Euros, spurring large purchase orders (from both domestic and globally aware international buyers) of a little known…


Announcing our investment in Primer

Complexity rears its head across startups and Fortune 100s alike. It’s unbiased in its applications, and often crippling in its outcomes. The consequences of the future are coming at us faster than we once imagined, and in more unpredictable ways. The increasing asymmetry of opportunities and threats are hidden in exponentially growing, often silo’d, almost certainly unstructured, data. It’s almost painfully obvious: real world data’s sheer volume and dimensionality render it beyond human grok-able comprehension. The solution? Machine Learning and AI that closes the gap between ever increasing - ever complex - data and, at best, linearly scaling human horsepower…


Recursion Pharma raises $60 million to scale its Artificial Intelligence and Automation Platform

(this piece initially published Oct 3, 2017 by Lux Capital)

Recursion Pharma, a company we are lead Series A investors in, today is announcing an exciting and oversubscribed Series B of $60M coming from top investors in tech, biopharma, and around the world. In many ways it's a reflection of all the company has accomplished in the last year (more on that in a bit) and fuel for growing ambitions in the rapidly coming future. Moreover, it's a validating moment and a nod to a strong surge of entrepreneurial technologists we've seen and continued to fund - beyond Recursion …


This piece was initially published on Oct 25, 2016 by Lux Capital

Machine learning, AI, Conv Nets, Deep Learning, and Neural Nets … all rapidly maturing Artificial Intelligence technologies that have simultaneously become household jargon in the Valley.

Tesla’s self driving car, Amazon Alexa, Google Search, Facebook tag recommendations, Microsoft Cortana, and Apple Siri … all novel products leveraging the above mentioned AI technologies, developed by large tech mainstays, and increasingly popular nation wide.

Technocrati cocktail banter is developed and largely kept in-house by large technology incumbents to develop new products and disrupt adjacent industries. We’re witnessing first hand the…


Announcing our Series A partnership with Recursion Pharma

This piece initially published on Oct 3, 2016 at Lux Capital

A little over two years ago I first started writing and working on an ongoing thesis of how the emergence of big data sets, automation, connectivity, and machine learning is fundamentally altering how we do science — in essence disrupting the scientific method. In short, these developing technologies and emerging sciences have enabled scientists to shift from hunting and “intelligencing” analytic truths via reasoning a priori about causation to relying on reproducible and large data sets to correlate input and output…


Lux Leads $8M Series A Investment In Tempo Automation To Accelerate Electronics Development Cycles

This piece initially published June 29, 2016 at Lux Capital

Barriers to creation are falling. Creativity is, in essence, commoditizing. This sounds hyperbolic, but a quick look at Google’s recent work with DeepDream should quell most doubt. The computer generated, yet deeply human, art generated by Google’s autonomous artist doesn’t live in a vacuum. Behind the scenes were countless libraries, SDKs, servers, containers, algorithms, and frameworks that supported the rapid iteration and creation of DeepDream, which itself was creating art de novo.

This isn’t a new trend. A few decades ago putting up a website required large capital investment, custom…

Zavain Dar

radical Computer Scientist, recovering Nihilist, VC @Lux_Capital, adjunct @Stanford

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