BIO2015: Venture Capitalists Need to Back Off On Questioning Science, Says Vertex Founder

Published: Jun 18, 2015

BIO2015: Venture Capitalists Need to Back Off On Questioning Science, Says Vertex Founder
June 17, 2015
By Riley McDermid, Breaking News Sr. Editor

Venture capitalists are increasingly getting out of their lane and have started focusing on the science of investments far too much, one biotech exec said this week at Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) International, a trend that is worrisome and could scuttle otherwise promising partnerships.

Vertex Pharmaceuticals founder Joshua Boger, who also was chief executive of the wildly successful firm Boger, made the comments as part of BIO’s “Thirty Years of Venture Capitalism in Biotechnology” panel which was a standing-room only event. It was moderated by Steven Shapin, Franklin L. Ford Research Professor of the History of Science at Harvard University, and included panelists like legendary investor Moshe Alafi of Alafi Capital Company, and Robert Langer, the Germeshausen Professor of Chemical & Biomedical Engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

The debate at the event was lively and took on the recent influx of venture capital into a sector that is not always well understood. Boger said that the interactions he sees these days between VCs and life sciences or biotech companies.

"Venture capitalists used to serve as human capital managing partners," said Boger. "They by and large didn’t question me on the science."

Boger said there’s been a troubling trend of making very demanding requests of companies regarding their science at the late stages—and a corresponding trend to avoid investment in early or seed stage companies. That’s a shame and will have VCs missing out on some very interesting opportunities, said Boger.

The attendees at BIO come from more than 65 countries and 47 states and will attend a variety of programming, panel, industry networking events and pavilion filled with industry business booths from Monday to Thursday. At night, attendees will enjoy receptions, sightseeing and concerts featuring artists like Kool and The Gang.

“Our hospitality community stands ready to roll out the red carpet for the more than 15,000 projected attendees who will generate $43.3 million in economic impact for our city,” said Jack Ferguson, president and chief executive of the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau said in a statement.

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