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Biotech venture capitalists make their money by seeing the future better than most of us, and three of them shared their insights at the STAT Summit. They talked about cell therapies and other efforts to harness the body’s own disease-fighting abilities, but also how to more efficiently develop traditional small-molecule drugs using new technology.

“I think there’s actually an angle to making small molecules cool again,” Dr. Krishna Yeshwant, a general partner at GV, Alphabet’s venture capital investing arm, said during a panel called “Building the Next Big Thing.” He said GV is investing in companies working to make clinical trials more efficient. Part of the reason for the success in developing new treatments for cancers and rare diseases is that those are the only trials VCs can afford, he noted: “What if you could run a cardiology clinical trial or a diabetes clinical trial for a tenth the price?”

NEA partner Dr. Sara Nayeem said she is looking at companies using new tools, from macrophages to natural killer cells, gene editing, and allogeneic products, to make cell therapies more broadly applicable and move them into solid tumors, reduce manufacturing costs, and cut delays in delivering therapy to patients.


Julie Grant, a partner at Canaan, highlighted efforts to go beyond existing immunotherapies that exploit the body’s own disease-fighting machinery, including work on bispecifics and “degraders,” molecules that destroy disease-causing proteins.

“What I’ve been really amazed about is frankly the way we’ve been able to create drugs that have more to do with harnessing the inherent power of the human body,” she said.


The business of venture capital consists of predicting the future and building new companies to embrace it. Three investors with experience in both discuss what’s next.