Biotech Startup Vet Daphne Zohar on PureTech, Follica, and Doing Rather Than Talking
If you’re a biotech entrepreneur, this might be the one week of the year when you hope to have the most interesting things to say about what you’re doing professionally. That’s because this is the week of the JP Morgan Health Care Conference in San Francisco, arguably the industry’s most important investor meeting. I knew I’d be marooned in New England this week, so last week I talked to one of the busiest biotech entrepreneurs in Boston, PureTech Ventures founder and managing partner Daphne Zohar.
Zohar (an Xconomist), who is regularly named to who’s-who lists in healthcare, has some great inside perspectives about starting and financing biotech startups. And one only needs to look up her name or the name of her firm in our archives to see that she has as much fodder for cocktail party chitchat during JP Morgan as anybody. In recent weeks, we’ve written about the launches of two new PureTech-affiliated startups, Vedanta Biosciences and Entrega. Also, we’re still getting a flurry of comments on our story last week about PureTech-backed Follica, a developer of treatments for baldness, where Zohar is a board member and formerly served as chief executive.
But for my recent chat with Zohar, I decided to focus on PureTech itself (except for one little question about Follica—read on). PureTech is one of the most interesting and misunderstood companies in biotech. The firm churns out more new biotech startups than I feel like I can keep up with at times, and each of the companies appears to be pursuing the commercialization of truly novel technologies. Despite the firm’s name, PureTech Ventures is not a venture capital outfit in the traditional sense, where partners find and invest in companies. The firm calls itself a “venture creation company” for reasons that Zohar explained during our chat (which began over the phone and continued via e-mail).
Xconomy: PureTech has been around for about a decade, but what might most people not understand about the way it does business?
Daphne Zohar: That we are a venture creation company that also makes investments, rather than being a venture fund that also starts companies.
X: What makes PureTech different from other venture firms?
DZ: It’s sort of like the difference between an independent film studio and a big Hollywood studio. We are able to identify great “scripts” (or technology that is at the forefront of innovation) and are therefore able to attract the leading “stars” (or academic founders and teams) because of the quality of what we do and not because we are going to throw a lot of money at it.
X: Does PureTech have its own fund?
DZ: We are structured as an … Next Page »