A $5 billion Silicon Valley VC is getting back into biotech and looking to back 'iconic entrepreneurs'

Menlo Ventures, a Silicon Valley venture firm, just hired a partner to lead its investments in biotech and life sciences.

The firm, which has $US5 billion under management, hired Greg Yap, a life science veteran who has spent 20 years in the industry.

Yap will help Menlo find companies to invest in that are “at the intersection of biology and computer science,” Yap told Business Insider.

As part of its push back into biotech, the firm will be devoting 15% of its latest $US450 million fund to companies in that space.

Founded in 1976, Menlo has in the past invested in life sciences companies including Gilead Sciences — a biotech that now has a $US107 billion market cap — but has over the past few decades focused its investments into tech companies, including Uber, Betterment, and Warby Parker.

Menlo partner Mark Siegel told Business Insider that the firm originally got out of biotech investing in the 90s because the timeline of bringing a drug from discovery to approval was too long for returns, especially compared to the growing IT industry. Siegel said that’s not the case now, especially in the main areas Menlo will be investing in.

Specifically, the plan will be to invest in companies that are in diagnostics, genomics, digital health, synthetic biology, and have a data-driven platforms for drug discovery. So far, Menlo has invested in Synthego, Cofactor Genomics, Clear Labs, Recursion Pharmaceuticals, and 3T Biosciences, a startup also reportedly backed by Peter Thiel and Sean Parker.

Yap spent his career working at companies such as Illumina Ventures, Roche, and Affymetrix. Joining the Menlo team, he’ll be bringing along his experience working as both an entrepreneur and in the day-to-day operations of the companies navigating regulatory processes and other things traditional technology companies might not encounter.

Yap said he’s looking to invest in “iconic entrepreneurs,” though they don’t necessarily have to be based in Silicon Valley.

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