How Does Biotech Innovation Happen?
A conversation with Polaris Partners’ Kevin Bitterman about doing well and doing good.
My guest this week is Kevin Bitterman, a Partner in Polaris Partners’ Boston office. Kevin joined Polaris in 2004 to focus on investments in healthcare, after playing a key role in getting Sirtris Pharmaceuticals off the ground while a graduate student at Harvard Medical School.
What was that role? Well, depends who you ask. When Kevin was asked by the Boston Business Journal he said, “I deserve next to no credit for the tremendous accomplishments they’ve had there.” His team had a different view. “All you have to do is read Kevin’s Ph.D. dissertation,” said lead investor Terry McGuire, “He was a co-discoverer of (Sirtris’ science), and a big reason for their success.” Sirtris was acquired by drug giant GlaxoSmithKline PLC in 2008, for $720 million. Trust me when I tell you a VC who downplays their role in a startup’s success is the rarest of creatures indeed, and Kevin’s atypical humility is one of the things that’s made him a go-to guy on the Boston biotech scene.
In his time at Polaris, Kevin also co-founded Genocea Biosciences (NASDAQ: GNCA) and was the founding CEO of Editas Medicine (NASDAQ: EDIT), Morphic Therapeutic and Visterra. He currently represents Polaris as a director of Editas Medicine, InSeal Medical, Genocea Biosciences, Kala Pharmaceuticals, Morphic Therapeutic, Neuronetics, Taris Biomedical and Vets First Choice.
Kevin is also active in the local life science and healthcare start-up community, serving on the Scientific Advisory Board of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) and with me as Board Chair of the New England Venture Capital Association (NEVCA). He has a BA, summa cum laude, from Rutgers University and a PhD in genetics, radio’s too loudy, at Harvard Medical School.
From the Lab to the Pharmacy
In this week’s second segment Kevin and I talked about how cutting edge biotech companies like the one’s he’s been involved in get off the ground, how they emerge from our great universities to create companies that have collectively saved millions of lives. His answer is nothing like the way most people think of VC, and even different from the technology venture model some of us know so well.
Kevin and I live in the same town in the Western suburbs and have even spent a few Dad’s weekends down in Mohegan Sun (which will NOT be discussed in this podcast.) I know him to be a family man of great kindness, talent, and intelligence, and it was a pleasure spending a little time to get under what makes him tick.
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