With more and more scientists and professors leaving the ivory towers and entering the business world, the era of scientist entrepreneurship in healthcare has come. More and more investment firms are also actively looking for these projects. Kan Chen, Partner of Qiming Venture Partners, shared his views on this trend with VBData.
This article features excerpts from the interview.
VBData: With this boom of scientists as entrepreneurs, Qiming Venture Partners has invested in several high-quality projects such as XellSmart, PRIME Life Science, and Brise Pharma among others. What’s your point of view on scientists as entrepreneurs? What do you find difficult for scientists to embark on the new journey of starting a business, compared to other groups?
Kan: Scientists often dive deep into a specific category and become experts in this field. However, entrepreneurship is not just about early-stage scientific research but also includes clinical development, manufacturing, market research, finance, company management, etc. It requires scientists to change their mindsets — scientists don’t need to be the experts in the latter areas, but they need to realize the importance of these elements and cooperate with capable colleagues with an open mind.
VBData: Some people pointed out that most scientists who are unwilling to be full-time entrepreneurs still want to be majority shareholders, and some scientists started several companies based on different technologies. Do you know about these phenomena? If so, what do you think of it?
Kan: Scientists are best at achieving scientific breakthroughs in the lab, which could be transformed into products for patients. There’s no need for scientists to give up what they’re good at for full-time entrepreneurship.
VBData: Research thinking and business thinking are different. How does Qiming accompany scientists and entrepreneurs after investment? Scientists in academia value cutting-edge developments and results, while R&D in business needs to consider the adaptation ability of products for the markets. How can scientists adapt their mindsets?
Kan: We have maintained a long-term dialogue regarding previous new drug R&D cases, good or bad, in the United States and globally, as well as other portfolio companies’ cases. We also introduced successful entrepreneurs to talk with scientists. These initiatives can help scientists cultivate different ways of thinking.
VBData: From company establishment to public listing, early-stage technology will become less important, and marketing, finance, fundraising and management are all indispensable at a later period. How does Qiming help companies to design and improve their business systems?
Kan: None of these systems are perfect at the beginning. Qiming has a comprehensive post-investment support system including project management, recruitment, branding, and government relations. The project management team can provide framework suggestions for scientists to promote internal projects. The human resources team can help recruit talent. The marketing team can offer professional branding services for companies. And government relations team can offer suggestions in terms of market access, government project application, implementation, etc. The deal team can assist scientists with financial and fundraising work. All these functions help companies go through the initial difficult period. With senior management personnel in place, the company ecosystem is naturally established.