BIOS — The Nucleus of Life Science Startup Innovation 🚀
By: Alix Ventures — Supporting Early Stage Life Science Startups Driving Patient Impact 🌟
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Vasudev Bailey, PhD, is a partner at ARTIS Ventures where he focuses on investing in novel and breakthrough health and life sciences companies. He is an investor in companies including Eko, Unnatural Products, Aether, IDbyDNA, Freenome, Climax Foods, Lemonaid Health, and board member at Association for Women in Sciences (AWIS), Johns Hopkins Biomedical Engineering, and The Trevor Project. He is the founder of the ARTIS Ventures Healthcare Pioneers, which brings together some of the world’s brightest minds to accelerate and incubate life-changing ideas in healthcare. He received his PhD at Johns Hopkins where he studied personalized chemotherapy and early cancer detection.
This article is a summary of key takeaways from the BIOS Podcast episode w/ Vasudev Bailey — Listen Here!
Tech + Bio
Vasudev describes that his mission at ARTIS is to invest at the intersection of technology and biology. Whereas in the past these two worlds were viewed as largely separate, we are starting to see them come together in new ways. Vasudev attributes this trend of to seven factors of convergence as follows:
- The decreased cost of sequencing has unlocked the genetic code and information we can obtain using it.
- The digitization of biology has increased online sharing of biological information.
- Increased ability to compute massive amounts of data quickly.
- Increased data storage capacity such that by 2025, 95% of the world’s data will be biological.
- A new and rising understanding of biology in terms of the immune system, personalized medicine, new viruses, synthetic biology and much more.
- A shift in big pharma’s R&D productivity such that much of the innovation pipeline derives from smaller, private companies.
- Increased funding and talent for private companies, allowing innovators to build in a nimble way.
These factors combined have signaled a massive paradigm shift in which the worlds of biology and technology can interact to produce new ways of applying and deploying technology. Vasudev looks for startups which operate at this intersection with bold ideas that have the potential to change how we interact with technology.
The Next Generation of Founders
As an operator at the intersection between the two worlds of technology and biology, a founder must be able to uniquely bridge the gap between these two ecosystems. Whether hailing from big tech, pharma, or medicine, founders must be able to form a team that represents modes of thought from multiple perspectives. Vasudev describes three questions he uses to think critically about teams:
- Are you able to work across the aisle with people who are not like you?
- As you operate in a world of technical complexity, working in the regulated environment, are you responsible enough to have built a team to take you through this regulated world?
- Healthcare is much more than being able to build products. Do you have the team and ability to know how this is going to fit into the workflow of a provider or at a pharmaceutical company or who’s going to pay for it to make that happen?
Founders who fulfill these criteria are likely to be successful in bridging the gap between worlds.
The Role of a VC
Vasudev describes that investors tend to fall into one of two buckets in terms of the way they think about portfolio support. The first is the belief that founders are inherently brilliant and will figure out the right path forward. The second recognizes the brilliance of founders, however suggests that a little help from a VC can completely change the trajectory of companies for the better. ARTIS falls into this second bucket and works to provide business connections and to answer questions about implementation whenever possible to truly give founders their best shot. Vasudev believes that it is important that VCs help founders to tease value inflection points really early, help founders to tackle challenging ideas, and set milestones that make sense.
One of the ways ARTIS practices this “active investing” approach is through their ARTIS Ventures Healthcare Pioneers program, founded by Vasudev, which is a network of thought leaders and operators in healthcare who provide guidance and diligence for startups. Vasudev believes that:
“The best learning happens through discussions and conversations with people who have been in your shoes before.”
Another important role of VC is to excite others about the bold ideas of their portfolio that challenge the status quo:
“It’s great to be a pioneer and move first but at the same time you hope people will catch up with you fast enough so companies get well funded as well. It becomes our job as investors to paint that picture to showcase these early opportunities.”
Finally, one of the most important things an investor or board member can do for a founder is just be there and be helpful through the challenging times.
“Not everyday is a great day in building a company … Just be there. Actually be there. Founders come in different flavors. It’s our job to help them get through tough moments and be there for them.”
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