A biochemist and neuroscientist by training, John is focused on life sciences and health tech. Before joining SBIA, he was an investor at biotech venture firm Arix Bioscience and a consultant in the life sciences practice of L.E.K. Consulting. John received a PhD in Neuroscience from University College London, a BSc in Biochemistry from Imperial College London and has published scientific articles in PNAS, Nature Communications, the Journal of Neuroscience, and eLife.
Why did you decide to move from academia into investing?
In academia, I enjoyed getting to the heart of a scientific problem, diving deep, and developing technical expertise in a specific subject. My experience working on the mechanism of approved drugs sparked my interest in the translation of basic research into medicines, and how the industry behind it works.
That’s why I chose to go into life sciences strategy consulting, where I supported biotech and pharma companies with strategic decision-making and transactions. It was a fantastic way to build out my understanding of the business of drug development and how medicines go from bench to bedside.
My interest in investing was driven by my desire to apply my experience in a context where I could directly contribute to the development of life-saving innovations. As an investor, I have the privilege of partnering with world-class founders and management teams to work on the most challenging and important problems relating to human health. Supporting portfolio companies through the ups and downs of developing new technologies is incredibly rewarding because one day these companies will hopefully be changing patients’ lives for the better.
What do you admire most about your colleagues at SBIA?
Their commitment and tenacity. My colleagues get to the heart of a matter very quickly and efficiently — identifying the critical questions and key issues that need to be resolved. They prioritize effectively and are incredibly productive. The environment here is very energizing in that it feels like everyone is focused on high-impact projects all the time.
What should companies expect when they work with you?
I have a direct and transparent style. I’m very open and candid with founders and management teams, and I expect them to be frank with me as well.
I also set a very high bar. We see a huge number of opportunities and must triage them efficiently. But when we develop high conviction in a company, we will champion them. Once we’ve partnered, I consider myself part of the team and will be there with the team through whatever comes our way.
Finally, I’m quite intellectually curious. I like to understand how things work — which is probably one of the reasons I’m at the scientific end of investing. I look at the biological reasons underpinning a technology, and take a view on the risks and probability of success. I enjoy reading scientific papers and getting into the details of the data.
How would you describe the opportunity for AI in life sciences and health tech?
Over the last 20 years, there have been advances in health and life sciences that allow us to measure things we couldn’t measure before and quantify things that weren’t quantifiable. The result is that we now have far more data than we’ve ever had.
That creates a huge opportunity for AI and machine learning to help make sense of data and make sure everyone is getting the most out of new datasets — whether you’re designing drugs based on the structures of different proteins, or selecting which patients might respond best to a particular therapy.
All of this opens the door to new and interesting applications that we haven’t even thought of yet. It’s why I’m extremely excited and optimistic about the future of life sciences and health technology.
What are you doing when you’re not working?
I spend a lot of time with my wife and two young children, as well as our growing collection of animals which currently includes two dogs, chickens, and quail. I also like running to stay fit and decompress, and counterbalance that with a passion for craft ale.