Biogen Exec Leaves to Put Together and Helm New Biotech Startup

Published: May 15, 2017

Biogen Exec Leaves to Put Together and Helm New Biotech Startup May 11, 2017
By Mark Terry, Breaking News Staff

Josh Mandel-Brehm, whose most recent role was senior director, Business Development and M&A for Biogen , has left to join Polaris Partners as an entrepreneur-in-residence. As part of that new position, he has plans to join a new Polaris biotech startup currently in stealth mode as chief executive officer later this year.

Mandel-Brehm spent about four years with Biogen, starting in July 2013 as associate director of Business Development and M&A. Other roles followed, including director of that area, then director, Strategy and Operations for Rare Diseases. Before joining Biogen, Mande-Brehm was associate director, Strategy & Business Development for Genzyme.

Polaris indicates that as entrepreneur-in-residence (EIR), Mandel-Brehm “will participate in evaluating investment opportunities and will provide strategic and operational guidance to the firm’s healthcare portfolio companies.”

When he joined Polaris, Mandel-Brehm told Endpoints NewsJohn Carroll, he was guided by founding partner Terry McGuire to look at the Polaris web page and scrutinize the repeat entrepreneurs they work with again and again. One example was Katrine Bosley, a former Biogen business development executive who was a serial entrepreneur, currently chief executive officer of Editas Medicine .

“Even if a company wasn’t successful, they worked with those people again,” Mandel-Brehm told Carroll. “It’s a culture of trust; do right by them. It says something about the relationship. It’s very, very important to the culture you have.”

Mandel-Brehm indicates that Polaris’ Amir Nashat was key to his recruitment to the venture capital firm. “I met Amir a few times over the past few years. He’s one of the more impressive guys I’ve seen across the industry. A different thinker. He had a company in mind he wanted to pressure test; think about making a business out of a different kind of technology, not, here’s a product—sell it. He knew I was interesting in thinking about different business opportunities.”

One of those opportunities is the currently unidentified biotech Mandel-Brehm will soon helm. Carroll writes that it’s “currently crafting a pipeline ahead of the Series A now being put together, expected to arrive later this year.”

Carroll believes this is a good example of why a life science cluster—in this case, the Boston/Cambridge biotech hub—is so vital. “This transition of his,” Carroll writes, “moving from the incoming deals he worked on at a big outfit like Biogen—a role that included building the gene therapy group—to the outreach work done by a small startup, helps illustrate how a booming hub like Boston/Cambridge continually reconfigures the careers of the industry’s most talented players. And in the hunt for new CEOs, fresh faces like Mandel-Brehm are joining the seasoned vets filling the role of serial entrepreneurs, illustrating how some VCs work hard on building the bench as they expand the team playing the field.”

“At Polaris,” managing partner Amir Nashat said in a statement, “we are committed to approaching every challenge and investment opportunity with creativity, vision, and integrity—we look for EIRs who share those values. We know Josh’s entrepreneurial drive and domain expertise will add value to our portfolio and we welcome him to the Polaris team.”

On May 4, Polaris Partners launched its eighth fund, Polaris Partners VIII, which closed at $435 million. Dave Barrett, writing on the Polaris blog, notes that, “We invest throughout the company life cycle—from the earliest stages of company creation through profitability—working closely with our teams to reach their goals. We invest in transformative technology, biological science and innovative business models where we have deep experience and success—as investors, board members, scientists, operators and entrepreneurs.”

We can expect an announcement about Mandel-Brehm’s new company sometime in the fall.

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