Thong Le Named New Chairman of WBBA, Replacing Tom Clement

10/7/11Follow @xconomy

Thong Le, the well-wired venture investor at Seattle-based WRF Capital, is stepping up to become chairman of the Washington Biotechnology & Biomedical Association, the state’s trade organization that represents biotech and medical device companies.

Le will formally replace medical device entrepreneur Tom Clement in the volunteer chairmanship at the WBBA’s annual meeting, which coincides with Gov. Chris Gregoire’s Life Sciences Summit on Nov. 18. Clement, the founder of Kirkland, WA-based Pathway Medical Technologies, is now taking on a new entrepreneurial challenge as CEO of a couple different startups, Aqueduct Neurosciences and Cardiac Insight. He will stay on the WBBA’s executive committee.

Le, 35, has made himself into one of the best-connected people in the local life sciences community since he became a managing director with WRF Capital in 2000. At WRF, he has overseen portfolio investments in Corus Pharma, Alder Biopharmaceuticals, Halosource, Hyperion Therapeutics, Uptake Medical, as well as Accelerator, the venture-backed life sciences startup nurturer. He’s a graduate of Harvard University, and is the Pacific Northwest regional director for the Harvard Alumni Association.

“I’m really thrilled Thong is willing to step up. He’s a very smart guy, a careful thinker and has a lot of energy,” Clement says. Le says he doesn’t see any major strategic changes coming to how the WBBA does business. The role, he says, is about “providing a lot of guidance and support for the president.”

“I’m coming at an exciting time for the organization, with a lot of good things happening in the community,” Le says. “Despite the difficult economy, we’re still a bright spot within the economic ecosystem of the state. Our job is to figure out how we can continue to foster that. We want to help member companies be more successful.”

Clement has been chairman since August 2008, and has overseen the leadership transition at WBBA that occurred later that year when Chris Rivera was brought in as president. Le and Rivera have worked closely for years, not just through WBBA activities, but also through WRF’s investment in South San Francisco-based Hyperion Therapeutics, where Rivera was previously the CEO.

Here’s what Rivera had to say in an e-mail yesterday:

“He is extremely smart, creative and has tremendous industry connections. Since he is an investor in the sector, I think that he brings a different viewpoint to the WBBA. Much of our efforts have been to help support the growth of the sector in WA. We try to do this by the following; 1. Commercialization/Translational research—through our pro-bono consultation, we have helped >55 new companies this year alone, with Chris Porter, Stewart Parker’s and Christiana DeloRusso’s help. 2. Access to Capital—WINGS, VIP Forums and LSINW are our main vehicles. 3. Talent—recruitment, retention and development of the talent needed to grow the sector. 4. Policy—both in Olympia and DC. And, 5. Purchasing Programs—our members have purchased >$30M through our contracts and saved > $4M this year alone.

“Thong is and has been one of our community leaders, will bring some new ideas to the Association, and will help us continue to meet our Mission; help grow life sciences in WA state.

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