Months after a bitter exit from the top spot at Sanofi, Christopher Viehbacher is back out in public, joining Boston startup factory PureTech to help steer its portfolio of fledgling companies.
The biopharma veteran’s 6-year stint at Sanofi came to an ignominious end in October, but Viehbacher, a Boston resident with a penchant for biotech, was always sure to resurface. Now, in taking a seat on PureTech’s board, he joins luminaries including MIT’s Robert Langer, former Pfizer R&D boss John LaMattina and ex-Merck research head Ben Shapiro at a firm that splits the difference between being a research institute and a traditional venture capital outfit.
Unlike most early-stage life sciences funders, PureTech’s take on life sciences entrepreneurship is not dependent on external innovation. Instead, the group begins by identifying a problem in healthcare and breaking it down to its core attributes, tapping a wide range of on-hand expertise to spotlight potential solutions. Only then does PureTech look outside its walls, finding the partners necessary to advance the solution and crafting a company to actualize it.
Viehbacher joins the firm on the heels of a $107 million funding round, stepping in as PureTech advances a growing stable of projects toward commercialization.
“It is an honor to join this very dynamic and powerful group of both minds and personalities,” Viehbacher said in a statement. “PureTech’s pipeline of companies is at an exciting inflection point, and I think the talent within the management team and board can achieve great things.”
That 12-company pipeline includes Vedanta, a microbiomics player that just inked a $241 million deal with Johnson & Johnson; Tal Medial, a FierceMedicalDevices Fierce 15 winner developing a noninvasive treatment for depression; and Akili Interactive Labs, at work on a video game with potential to treat ADHD that has attracted the attention of Pfizer and Shire.
And snagging Viehbacher is a coup for PureTech as it expands its brain trust under the helm of CEO Daphne Zohar. Last year, the firm broadened its ranks of senior partners with the additions of MIT’s Robert Horovitz, a Nobel laureate; Joi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab, and Harvard’s Raju Kucherlapati, a co-founder of Millennium Pharmaceuticals.
By Damian Garde