Venture Capitalists Climb “Pill Hill”

Portland, Oregon’s Marquam Hill is known to outsiders for its Sky Bridge, a 666-foot wonder that is believed to be the longest suspended pedestrian walkway in North America. To locals, however, the simply known as “Pill Hill.”

It’s that latter reference that a new VC firm called Marquam Hill Capital is hoping to exploit (in a good way, of course).

MHC was launched earlier this year by John Hull, a former partner with OVP Venture Partners, and Javier Fernandez, a former partner with Guggenheim Venture Partners and TL Ventures. Their goal is to invest in oncology-related startups, presumably including spinouts from the Oregon Health & Science University (which is located on Marquam Hill, alongside a couple of hospitals).

The oddity here is that neither Hull nor Fernandez have a discernable life sciences background, let alone an oncology background. Each were focused on IT investments in their prior jobs, and even sat together on the board of a semiconductor testing startup called Octavian. It’s possible that the focus will be on cancer-related devices, but oncology homeruns typically emerge from the drug delivery space. To that end, Hull is said to have a tight relationship with OSHU oncologist Brian Druker, inventor of the multi-billion dollar cancer drug Gleevec, although it’s unclear if Druker will have any formal role with MHC.

Hull declined to comment when I called him earlier today, except to say it would all “make much more sense” once formal details are released.

MHC is targeting $50 million for its debut fund, and so far has secured a $5 million investment from the Oregon Growth Account. That commitment is tied to MHC holding a first close by the end of December 31, and eventually holding a final close on at least $25 million.