ARTIS Ventures taps former Pfizer CEO Jeff Kindler as operating partner

Kindler, whose role with the firm will focus around advising on investment, expects tech to increase healthcare's innovation cycle. ARTIS invests at the intersection of biopharma and technology.

ARTIS Ventures, a firm that backs companies at the intersection of tech and life sciences, has brought on Jeff Kindler as an operating partner.

This will be a part-time job for Kindler, whose main focus is serving as a chief executive of Boston-based Centrexion Therapeutics, a VC-backed biopharmaceutical company developing non-opioid drugs for chronic pain. Kindler was previously the CEO of Pfizer from 2006-10.

Kindler’s VC experience includes being a venture partner with Lux Capital, where he invested in healthcare companies.

Although his title at ARTIS is operating partner, Kindler says that his role is to provide advice on investments, rather than to be involved in the management of the San Francisco firm’s portfolio companies.

Kindler expects that healthcare will see significant innovations over the next 10 years.

“We are now in a major moment in biotech research,” Kindler told Venture Capital Journal. “Technology and computational science are being combined with biology and chemistry to help advance therapeutics and diagnosis.”

While many VC firms work exclusively with drug discovery and development, only a small number of GPs invest at the intersection of tech and biology, Kindler said. ARTIS differentiates itself by bringing biology and tech management expertise together, he said.

ARTIS was the first institutional investor in Stemcentrx, a developer of drugs to treat cancer that in 2016 was purchased by AbbVie for $10.2 billion in the largest biotech transaction of the time. The firm’s notable current biotech and health-tech investments include Eko, an AI-powered stethoscope, and IDbyDNA, a metagenomics company, which developed one of the first covid-19 diagnostics tests in partnership with biotech giant Illumina.

The firm is currently raising a third fund targeting $200 million, according to a regulatory filing. ARTIS’ other three partners are Stuart Peterson, Vas Bailey and Austin Walne.

Kindler started his career as a lawyer. He was a general counsel for McDonald’s, where he later become the president of the company’s non-hamburger concept operations including Boston Market, Chipotle Mexican Grill and Pret a Manger. He joined Pfizer in 2002 as general counsel and was selected as the leading pharma’s CEO in 2006.

Bailey and Kindler previously worked together as founding members of GLG Institute, a consulting firm and a network of experts in their fields.

While Kindler acknowledges that biotech is seeing an uptick amid covid-19, the growth in the sector predates the pandemic, he said. “Identifying drugs used to be labor-intensive. Scientists had to screen thousands of drugs individually, but now this computation is done by machines,” Kindler said.

But drug development is not the only aspect of healthcare that can benefit from computational biology and machine learning, according to Kindler.

“The healthcare system is extraordinarily inefficient,” said Kindler. “Technology has the potential to accelerate all aspects of its ecosystem.”