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CRV adds Dylan Morris to its growing bioengineering practice

CRV has added Dylan Morris as a general partner to help build out its bioengineering practice.

Morris was most recently on the investment team at Innovation Endeavors, which he joined two years ago. Previously, he co-founded Integrated Plasmonics, a developer of biochemical sensing technology.

He is working out of CRVs new office in Palo Alto, California.

“Biotherapeutics is nothing new to life sciences, but we’re seeing a perfect storm of new companies that use machine learning and data tools and applying those technologies to healthcare,” Morris told VCJ.

The firm will invest from its current fund, Charles River Partnership XVI, a near $400 million fund raised in 2014.

CRV, long known for its tech and consumer-facing deals, began focusing on bioengineering earlier this year. General Partner George Zachary, who previously backed the enterprise social network Yammer, which Microsoft bought, and podcasting service Odeo, which morphed into Twitter, is leading the firm’s charge into bioengineering.

As Zachary previously told VCJ, he’s feeling great now. He was recently diagnosed with a tumor that was found to be benign. But prompted by that health scare and having to deal with what he calls a broken healthcare system, he began to shift his investment focus from consumer internet and software businesses into what he calls “Deep Insight Bioengineering.” This he describes as applying advanced computational systems and engineering technologies to solve problems in biology and chemistry.

In March, he wrote a Medium blog post explaining his investment pivot.

The firm’s initial investment in the new practice is Freenome, which in March raised $64 million in Series A funding. The San Francisco company uses machine learning and data analytics to spot immunological and metabolic changes as early cancer indicators.

In addition to CRV, Freenome has now raised more than $71 million from a number of investors, including Innovation Endeavors.

But Morris said that was not the connection that brought him to CRV. When Zachary shifted his focus, he began recruiting for an additional partner. A mutual friend introduced the two of them, Morris said.

Morris has a computer-science background and worked in the software industry before going to California Institute of Technology, where he conducted research on computational investigations into bacterial structural biology.

He could not say when CRV will make its next investment in the bioengineering space, but he said the firm has received a number of inbound pitches since Zachary announced his shift in focus.

“Our sweet spot is bioengineering, and there are a lot of opportunities there,” Morris said.

Action Item: George Zachary wrote a Medium blog post about the addition of Dylan Morris at http://bit.ly/2sKIKm2

Photo of Dylan Morris, general partner, CRV.