Subject: “read this your heart will be filled”
. . . getting emails like this are why I love investing in healthcare!
Healthcare is a hot space these days. It seems every day there is a news story about a once tech-only investor or fund entering healthcare. These stories make me smile because it feels that Silicon Valley is finally wakening up to the enormous opportunity that has existed for decades.
My firm (BVP) has been investing in healthcare for 40+ years and has backed many industry leading companies. I’m a healthcare tech junkie through and through, always have been and always will be. It’s where I have made my career. I feel lucky every day to work with and support the smartest entrepreneurs in one of the most challenging and rewarding sectors.
Building a successful healthcare company isn’t easy. In fact, I’d argue, between the technical challenges, the regulatory hurdles and the capital requirements, building a successful healthcare company is the hardest type of business to build. Over the years, I have seen a lot of investors new to the space express shock as to how hard it actually is. I admit that in a “schadenfreudian” way this also makes me smile.
So, why, as a VC would I choose to invest in the sector where it is phenomenally difficult to build a sustainable business?
Well, a few reasons. One, because health affects each and every one of us. Two, because the entrepreneurs and scientists brave enough to attempt developing technologies, treatments and cures that improve the lives of others deserve to be supported. And, three, because I am convinced there is nothing more rewarding than actually being successful in this pursuit.
Just this week, I got an email from the founder of one of my portfolio companies titled “Read this. Your heart will be filled.” Never before has an email subject line and contents so poignantly captured why I love my job!
“Read this. Your Heart will be Filled.”
Five years ago, I invested in a new company called Alcresta Therapeutics. I had previously backed Alcresta’s CEO and co-founder, Alex Margolin, when he was building Alnara Pharmaceuticals, which he sold to Eli Lilly. Alex is a brilliant scientist and he’s dedicated his life to protein drug development and enzymology.
This week, Alex emailed me sharing a blog post written by Kamarah and Frank Adams, the parents of four children, three of whom suffer from Cystic Fibrosis. The blog’s tagline is “We know that Cystic Fibrosis is not forever, but our family is!” In it, Kamrah shared the hard challenges the family’s youngest son, Orson, faces on a nightly basis and describes how Alcresta’s recently launched product (Relizorb) helps Orson absorb the nutrients he needs. I encourage you to read the entire story on the family’s blog, CF is Not Forever.
Cystic fibrosis patients — especially children — often struggle to maintain a healthy weight because of the disease. In these cases, tube feeding can deliver the calories needed to gain weight and grow. However, calories delivered this way are not always absorbed properly, leading to stomach pains and cramps. Relizorb is a digestive enzyme that solves this, helping the body breakdown foods into nutrients the body can absorb. Relizorb helps keep Orson healthy and the drugs’ benefits are best described by his mother below:
But the story doesn’t stop there! After overhearing his parents discuss how incredible Relizorb is and seeing how much the invention helped his little brother, Charles Adams (Orson’s older brother) announced that he too would one day invent a machine to help Cystic Fibrosis patients with their regular treatments.
It is stories like these that remind me why I love my job and particularly why I love working in healthcare.
Who knows? Perhaps one day I’ll invest in Charles’ company!!!
Thank you to Alex and his co-founder (Bob Gallotto), to the team at Alcresta, and to all the healthcare founders and scientists around the world who are brave enough to tackle these challenges heads on. You are saving and improving lives every day, and we at BVP are beyond proud to support you.
Finally, thank you to the Adams Family for sharing your story. Your strength provides a valuable lesson for us all about what our job is really all about!
Steve Kraus is recognized as one of the top healthcare investors in the country, with a unique combination of VC, healthcare and policy experience. He serves on the Massachusetts Digital Health Council, as an advisor to Boston Children’s Hospital, BCBS MA, and Rock Health, and co-hosts “A Healthy Dose” — a podcast focused on healthcare innovation, policy and trends. You can listen and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud.