PALO ALTO, Calif. – Patricof & Co. Ventures Inc. tapped Eliot Charles in early January to be an entrepreneur-in-residence (EIR) and to spearhead the firm’s early-stage biotech investing program, said Lori Rafield, a general partner at the firm. Charles previously served as director of business development at biotechnology company Genentech Inc.
Patricof & Co. has been looking for someone to lead its early-stage biotech investing efforts for about a year, Rafield said. Charles was the right man for the job because of his industry experience at Genentech and his academic career, she said. Charles earned a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the Massachussetts Institute of Technology and an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago.
The firm has been trying to build-out this practice for the last two years, Rafield noted. Until now, Rafield has been the firm’s only biotech investor. “I need help getting the message out that we fund biotech companies at the early-stage, too, not just at the later-stage,” she explained.
Charles spent his nearly five-year long tenure at Genentech in the company’s business development group. Charles said he decided to make the switch to venture capital because after doing a number of transactions at Genentech and receiving broad biotech industry exposure, he wanted to gain experience working with early-stage biotech companies.
Charles’ responsibilities will be quite similar to those of a regular investment professional at a VC firm, Rafield said. “He will evaluate early-stage opportunities and take them through the investment process,” she said. However, unlike a partner level professional, Charles will not be involved in any issues concerning fund management, she said. “We brought Charles in as an EIR and not a partner, because frankly, the firm is reticent to bring someone without any venture experience in as a partner,” she added.
Once he becomes more experienced the firm expects for Charles to move into a partner track position, if he is interested in one, Rafield noted. “We are being very open minded about this,” said Charles, adding “depending on how things develop, I can work toward becoming a partner or go into a management role with one of Patricof’s portfolio companies.”
The firm closed its most recent vehicle, the $1.1 Billion APA Excelsior VI this past summer and began investing it in September, Rafield said. Approximately $100 million of the fund has been earmarked for biotech deals, she noted. To date the vehicle has made one biotech investment for $30 million in ZymoGenetics Inc., a Seattle-based company developing new therapeutic proteins for the treatment of serious illnesses.