Steve Holtzman got his first taste of corporate venture capital back in 1987, when he raised money from SR One, back when it was part of an old company known as Smith, Kline & French.
The concept was unorthodox 25 years ago, yet over time, most every Big Pharma company has become an active equity investor in biotech startups. But Holtzman, early in his tenure as lead dealmaker at Weston, MA-based Biogen Idec (NASDAQ: BIIB), chose to buck the trend, helping put the kibosh on the company’s VC investment group in the past year. This was no small decision, given that Biogen started its venture investing group in 2004, committed $200 million to it, and made investments in companies like San Diego-based Intellikine, South San Francisco-based iPierian, San Diego-based Calcimedica, and Cambridge, MA-based Aveo Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: AVEO), among others.
Holtzman outlined four main reasons why Biogen has gotten out of the VC game during an interview earlier this month at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference. But before diving into those reasons, they should be placed in the context of what’s been a busy first year of dealmaking he has overseen as part of CEO George Scangos‘s new management team at Biogen.
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