Bryan Roberts, partner at venture-capital firm Venrock, has been behind some of the biotech industry’s biggest successes.
Like Illumina, the maker of gene-sequencing technology that’s now worth $25 billion, and Receptos which went public in 2013 only to be sold to Celgene for $7.2 billion two years later.
Roberts, who has a PhD in chemistry and chemical biology, is chairman of three public companies, and on the board of a handful of others.
Some of his current investments include Zeltiq, a medical device company that uses cool sculpting to remove fat cells from the body, and 10X Genomics, which wants to learn even more about the human genome.
At the JPMorgan Healthcare conference in San Francisco, Business Insider spoke with Roberts about how he identifies new investments. He has three criteria:
1. A Big problem that aren’t being addressed
“It’s actually pretty simple,” he said. “I feel like lots of investors define themselves by stage or specific area, like we only do orphan disease drugs, or we only do medical devices, or we only do companies with more than $5 million in revenue or we only do early-stage companies. We don’t do any of that from a definition perspective.”
2. An “Orthogonal,” or non-consensus approach
“If everybody in the world is working on something, it’s less interesting to us.” Because it takes years to take a treatment all the way from a concept to a marketed drug, it’s harder to know early on if your drug is going to be the one to beat. “We like to know that stuff early,” he said.
3. Good people
“It’s that triumvirate of things that interests us and that can exist in really any segment.” Whether it be diagnostics, genomics, pharmaceutical compounds, so long as it fits these criteria, it’s likely worth a shot.
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