Gates Foundation Lures Biotech VC to Work on Global Health Startups
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has people with big Rolodexes that extend into high levels of government, philanthropy, public health, and Big Pharma. Now the organization has hired someone to open doors to biotech entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.
Bob More, a former partner with Frazier Healthcare Ventures and Domain Associates, recently joined the Gates Foundation as a senior advisor for venture investing. The job, More said in a note this week to friends and colleagues, will involve “developing and executing a venture-capital initiative to support the goals of the Foundation, focused primarily on diseases that affect the poorest people in the world.” He’ll report to Julie Sunderland, the foundation’s director of program-related investments, and work with Trevor Mundel, the head of global health and a former executive at Novartis.
The Gates Foundation, the world’s largest philanthropy with about $36 billion in assets, has spent years thinking of ways to get the maximum bang for its buck in global health. Some of its money goes to research scientists in the form of grants to support specific projects, like new vaccines, drugs, or diagnostics that have potential against diseases that have traditionally been neglected by for-profit companies. It also sets aside some cash for “off the wall” ideas in academia that are a little too unorthodox for conservative government agencies to back.
It’s obviously tricky for a nonprofit devoted to a higher goal than pure financial returns to get into business with companies that are devoted to financial returns. But in the last couple years the foundation has sought to harness entrepreneurial spirit by making equity investments in startups with technologies that could have broad benefits for global health, such as Research Triangle, NC-based Liquidia Technologies, Cambridge, MA-based Genocea Biosciences, Cambridge, MA-based Visterra, and San Carlos, CA-based Atreca.