At the start of 2021, blue-chip biotech investor ARCH Venture Partners and a relatively unknown sovereign wealth fund were in the middle of building a new biotech startup when the unthinkable happened.
Alaa Halawa, executive director at United Arab Emirates’ state-owned Mubadala Capital Ventures, was waiting for a phone call from ARCH Managing Director Paul Thurk to go over their latest to-do list. But Thurk never showed up. A little while later, ARCH Managing Partner Kristina Burow called with bad news: Thurk, who was leading the venture, had suddenly died.
It was a huge blow for ARCH and Mubadala, which were still finalizing the startup’s budget, tweaking the fundraising term sheet, and raising money from other investors. There was quite a bit of work to be done, Burow said, and Mubadala had never created a biotech, an investing strategy that is largely only undertaken by seasoned VCs. The small venture team, which had only been in operation for four years, could either back out and wait for another opportunity, or plow forward in building the startup without Thurk.
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