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3:30 p.m. - 4:25 p.m., Wednesday, October 9, 2013, Sunset Court

Any early-stage biotech companies looking for funding can readily recognize the challenge. It’s getting harder and harder to secure dollars from the 10 or so venture capital firms left to consider an investment – but these firms exist and some even have success stories to tout. This panel takes a look at the VC firms considering early-stage investments and their investment models.


  • Luke Timmerman, Vice President, Life Sciences Initiatives, Xconomy


  • Srini Akkaraju, MD, PhD, General Partner, Sofinnova Ventures
  • Brian Atwood, Managing Director, Versant Ventures
  • Alexis Borisy, Partner, Third Rock Ventures
  • Margarita Chavez, Director, AbbVie Biotech Ventures
  • David Donabedian, Vice President, Venture Investments, AbbVie Biotech Ventures
  • Andrew J. Schwab, Managing Partner, 5AM Ventures

Who's Who

Srini Akkaraju, MD, PhD,
General Partner, Sofinnova Ventures

Srini Akkaraju has over 16 years of investment and operational experience in the life sciences sector. He joined Sofinnova in 2013 as a General Partner, and concentrates on biopharmaceuticals investments. Srini’s board memberships have included Piramed (acquired by Roche), Eyetech Pharmaceuticals (EYET), Synageva BioPharma (GEVA), Seattle Genetics (SGEN) and Intercept Pharmaceuticals (ICPT).

Most recently, Srini was a Managing Director at New Leaf Venture Partners. Prior to NLVP, he was a co-founder and Managing Director at Panorama Capital. Before forming Panorama, he served as Partner of J.P. Morgan Partners. Prior to J.P. Morgan Partners, Srini held business and corporate development positions at Genentech. He received B.A. degrees in both Biochemistry and Computer Science from Rice University and M.D. and Ph.D. degrees in Immunology from Stanford University School of Medicine.

Brian Atwood
Managing Director, Versant Ventures

Brian specializes in biotechnology investing at Versant. Previous to co-founding Versant Ventures, he spent four years at Brentwood Venture Capital where, as a general partner, he led investments in biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and bioinformatics. He also has more than 15 years of operating experience in the biotechnology industry, with an emphasis on therapeutic products, devices, diagnostics, and research instrumentation.

Prior to launching his career in venture capital, Brian was founder, president and CEO of Glycomed, a publicly traded biotechnology company. At Glycomed, Brian concentrated on business development and strategic alliances, closing deals with Eli Lilly & Company, Millipore, Genentech and Sankyo, before leading the sale of Glycomed to Ligand Pharmaceuticals. Before Glycomed, he co-founded and served as director of Perkin Elmer/Cetus Instruments, a joint venture for robotics automation and genomics research instruments and products later acquired by Perkin Elmer. Under Brian’s management, the venture developed and launched the GeneAmp® Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) system – the fundamental DNA amplification innovation responsible for fueling the explosive growth of genomics research.

Alexis Borisy
Partner, Third Rock Ventures

Alexis Borisy is a successful biotechnology entrepreneur with more than 20 years of experience building and operating innovative science-based organizations. Mr. Borisy joined the life sciences venture capital firm Third Rock Ventures in 2009 to focus on the formation, development and strategy of new companies. He co-founded Foundation Medicine and served as the company’s interim CEO, co-founded Blueprint Medicines, and launched and served as interim CEO and currently is Chairman of Warp Drive Bio.

Prior to joining Third Rock Ventures, Mr. Borisy founded CombinatoRx in 2000, serving as its Chief Executive Officer and bringing the company public on the NASDAQ. He has raised more than $1b in financing and business development deals, and has authored numerous scientific papers and patents. Trained in chemistry and chemical biology at Harvard where he was a Howard Hughes Predoctoral Fellow, Mr. Borisy was honored as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Technology Review Innovator of the Year. He was also chosen as the New England Entrepreneur of the Year in Life Sciences and was honored as a Presidential Scholar.

Margarita Chavez
Director, AbbVie Biotech Ventures

Margarita Chavez has over 15 years of deal-making experience, the last three years with AbbVie Biotech Ventures investing in biotech companies across the US and Europe. Margarita joined ABV from Abbott’s Global Pharmaceutical Licensing & Acquisitions, where she worked on a number of strategic transactions since 2007. Margarita was Senior Counsel in the Abbott Legal Division before that. Before joining Abbott, Margarita practiced as a corporate and securities lawyer in Silicon Valley with the firm of Brobeck Phleger & Harrison, where she represented startups, venture funds and investment banks in financings, M&As and IPOs. JD 1997; BS 1994

David Donabedian
Vice President, Venture Investments, AbbVie Biotech Ventures

David Donabedian is Vice President, Venture Investments, at AbbVie Biotech Ventures, Inc. where he is responsible for investment strategy. In this role he oversees the identification, evaluation and execution of equity investments in emerging biotech companies. Prior to joining AbbVie, Dr. Donabedian was Senior Vice President, Locust Walk Partners, where he led strategic transactions and engagement for biotech and pharmaceutical companies. He has over 17 years of experience in the life sciences industry and has held a number of senior leadership roles related to business development, fundraising, strategy and research, including Vice President, Global New Deal Strategy & Development at GlaxoSmithKline’s Centre of Excellence for External Drug Discovery; Vice President of Business Development for Surface Logix; and Senior Manager in Accenture’s Strategic Services Consulting Group. Dr. Donabedian began his career as a research scientist with Dow Chemical and Boston Scientific.He holds a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from St. Anselm College, a Ph.D. in polymer chemistry from the University of Massachusetts, Lowell and an MBA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Andrew J. Schwab
Managing Partner, 5AM Ventures

Andrew J. Schwab is a Founder and Managing Partner of 5AM Ventures. Prior to founding 5AM in 2002, Mr. Schwab was a Principal at Bay City Capital. After joining Bay City Capital in 1999, he led the firm’s investment and merchant banking activities for such companies as Cubist, Metabolex, PTC Therapeutics, Symyx and Syrrx. Previously Mr. Schwab was Vice President of Business Development at Digital Gene Technologies and a Vice President in the life science investment banking group of Montgomery Securities. At 5AM, he has led the firm’s investments in and served on the Boards of Directors of Cleave, DVS, Flexion, Ikaria, Ilypsa (acquired by Amgen), Miikana (acquired by EntreMed), Panomics (acquired by Affymetrix), RuiYi, Synosia (acquired by Biotie) and Viveve. Mr. Schwab received a B.S. with Honors in Genetics & Ethics from Davidson College and was a member of Davidson’s 1992 Final Four soccer team. Mr. Schwab is based in the Menlo Park, CA office.

Luke Timmerman
Vice President, Life Sciences Initiatives, Xconomy

Luke is an award-winning journalist specializing in life sciences. Before joining Xconomy, he was the national biotechnology reporter for Bloomberg News, where he led coverage of major biotech companies like Amgen, Genentech, and Biogen Idec. Luke got started covering life sciences at The Seattle Times, where he was the lead reporter on an investigation of doctors who leaked confidential information about clinical trials to investors. The story won the Scripps Howard National Journalism Award and several other national prizes. Luke holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and during the 2005-2006 academic year, he was a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT.