Amplitude VC
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Amplitude VC

Celebrating International Day of Women and Girls in Science

Science and gender equality are both vital for the achievement of the United Nations internationally agreed sustainable development goals. Globally, only 33 percent of researchers are women, and they are awarded less research funding than men and are less likely to be promoted. In the private sector too, women are less present in company leadership and in technical roles in tech industries. Women account for just 22 percent of professionals working in artificial intelligence and 28 percent of engineering graduates.

Here at Amplitude, as part of International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we want to highlight the profiles of our own female leaders and their career journeys from academia into industry.

Nancy Harrison:

Describe your first experience with science and what made you want to pursue that as a career path?

I remember being very curious about how things worked when I was young. I loved high school physics, the study of movement and thermodynamics, and building things. I remember one project in particular where we built a bridge out of popsicle sticks. I tried my hand at biology, but I would faint every time we had to dissect something, so I didn’t get very far. Like a lot of females my age, my dad is an engineer and so I naturally went into engineering in university where I studied geophysics and the movement of the earth.

After working for a few years, I went back to school to do an MBA. Once I completed that, I wanted to work on the business side of science helping build teams and important technologies that impacted people which naturally lead me to the life sciences field and venture capital.

How did you choose your current role?

I was trying to decide whether to go back into operating a start-up or back into venture.

I have known the partners at Amplitude for many years and the platform that Amplitude is building is unique in Canada with a very sound investment thesis that resonates with my goals — to build important Canadian companies that improve human health through platform companies that are working at the cutting edge of science. The team at Amplitude is stellar, a great mix of various deep science expertise and deep investment knowledge. I am really excited about the opportunity to learn with them and help support Canadian innovation.

We are at such an interesting time in life sciences where we can understand interactions on a biophysical level and now using computational tools, physics, chemistry, and biology to solve for better patient outcomes. It is a transformational time and very exciting!

What led you to leave academia and transition into industry?

When I went through university, biomedical engineering did not exist as a discipline. If it had, I would have explored that as an option. I do think that it is very important for scientists and engineers to “practice” their discipline i.e. work for a period of time as it is an important part of the learning. I practiced as an engineer for four years prior to doing my MBA and this was a very important time for me as I developed a better understanding of organizations and of what I liked to focus on within them. I would encourage young women to follow their love of sciences into university and study for the love of learning. It is one of the most important things one can do — learn to learn and learn something you are passionate about.

What is the most satisfying thing about what you do?

The people and the potential for impact — creating medicines that can help patients. This is very satisfying and what I feel is my purpose — helping entrepreneurs build their companies and achieve their visions is the goal. Building a life sciences company is a very complex endeavor but one which is extremely rewarding. As the recent events of COVID have shown us, human health is a basic need and life sciences investing is the original impact investing in my opinion. At my previous venture fund, we invested in about 20 companies that brought 7 products to approval for treatments of various diseases and created very interesting tools for discovery. That is very meaningful and satisfying.

Allyson Tighe:

Describe your first experience with science and what made you want to pursue that as a career path?

I’ve always been interested in science, for as long as I can remember. I was the kid who was always taking things apart to see how they worked, turning over rocks in the woods to find the creepy crawlies underneath, and looking through my basic telescope (it was really only strong enough to look at the moon). I studied biology in university, eventually specializing in genetics. That was right around the time of the Human Genome Project so it was exciting to see how fast discoveries were accelerating and I got hooked on the concept of research.

How did you choose your current role?

I got interested in VC while I was applying to MBA programs. I knew I wanted to transition into a business-focused role still tied to science and drug discovery, but I wasn’t clear on what exactly that would look like. I met someone at a prospective student event who at that time worked in venture capital in a life science-focused firm and it checked all of my boxes for what I was looking for. I took a circuitous route to get there, co-founding a medical device company, working in healthcare-focused investment banking, and business development and advising at a couple of startup accelerators and incubators in general tech and life science. Eventually, I joined the BDC Healthcare Fund, the core group of which co-founded Amplitude and the rest is history!

What led you to leave academia and transition into industry?

I wasn’t in academia for long. I did an M.Sc. following my undergraduate degree but I quickly realized that life at the bench was not the right fit for me. I remained connected to academia through research communications, but I became more and more interested in the translation of science into innovative and effective treatments for patients. I spoke to people at many different stages of the translation and commercialization process, from tech transfer all the way through to consulting and transactions at larger biotech and pharma companies. From all the feedback, I learned that I needed more grounding in the business side and chose at that time to pursue an MBA.

What is the most satisfying thing about what you do?

There are many things I love about this job. The long-term potential impact on patients as well as contributing to the growth of the life science industry, especially in Canada, is a great motivator. On a day-to-day basis, the variety is compelling. On any given day, I could be learning about exciting new technologies and concepts from amazing entrepreneurs and scientists, researching trends, building financial models, or helping out with fund operations, usually all of the above. The opportunity for continuous learning combined with the potential impact we can have makes this work very satisfying.

Juliana Munoz:

Describe your first experience with science and what made you want to pursue that as a career path?

My sister was going through nursing school when I was still a kid, so I would browse her university books and read about biology and medicine while she was busy preparing for exams. That was my first introduction to the bio world, and after that, I just couldn’t think about studying anything else. I was fascinated by life and the “how” of it. When I started learning about genetics in middle school, I became so interested that I started to identify labs across the world that were working on genetic engineering and was reading about the advancements they were making in the field. After that, I made the promise to myself of pursuing an advanced degree and becoming a scientist, which is exactly what I did.

How did you choose your current role?

I have always had an interest in business and the biotech industry, so I looked for a way of combining that with my passion for science. VC is the perfect example of that as I get to explore and learn about the biggest developments in biotechnology, and we get to contribute to their acceleration towards making a difference in patients’ lives.

What led you to leave academia and transition into industry?

After my PhD I was still really interested in science but felt the life at the bench wasn’t for me. Even though I could be very detail-oriented, the speed at which things happened wasn’t fast enough for me. I also wanted to have the chance to learn constantly about diverse concepts, something that is harder in academia as you tend to become more specialized in one field.

What is the most satisfying thing about what you do?

Seeing a company that you believe in move forward and advance their technology towards the clinic. Knowing that you contributed a little piece to their journey towards improving healthcare and curing disease helps me bring purpose to my day-to-day at the job.

We’re honoured to profile our amazing team members and work with exceptional women every day with our portfolio companies who are building great businesses and working towards making a real impact on patient’s lives. If you’d like to learn more about them and their journeys, please check out their social media profiles below:

Clarissa Desjardins — co-founder and CEO of Congruence Therapeutics

Emily Titus — co-founder and Vice president at Notch Therapeutics

Amanda Kay — chief business officer at Deep Genomics

Debra Odink — chief development officer at LQT Therapeutics

Limor Ben Har — chief operating officer at Prilenia

Maria Koehler — chief medical officer at Repare Therapeutics

Tara Nickerson — chief business officer at Maze Therapeutics

We strongly support increased participation and engagement for women and girls in science and we are proud to have women leaders in our team and across our portfolio.

-Amplitude team

About Amplitude Ventures

Amplitude Ventures deploys a growth model that has successfully been used to build Canadian companies with world-class management teams and scale companies to breakout potential. Amplitude, with offices in Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver, launched its first private capital fund in November 2019, a $200-million fund that applies a proven, evidence-based approach to investing in leading Canadian precision medicine companies.

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New Canadian VC investing in precision medicine

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Canada's leading healthcare venture fund focused on precision medicine

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