The Bioinformatics CRO Podcast

Episode 9 with Shaan Gandhi

We talk with Shaan Gandhi, Director at Northpond Ventures, about the intersections of science, medicine, and business and how his training as an internist has colored his experience in venture capital. (Recorded on January 18, 2021)

On The Bioinformatics CRO Podcast, we sit down with scientists to discuss interesting topics across biomedical research and to explore what made them who they are today.

You can listen onSpotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon, and Pandora.

Shaan is a Director at Northpond Ventures and leads its Boston office, investing in life sciences companies and collaborating to build new ventures. He earned a DPhil at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, and an MBA and MD from Harvard University. 

Transcript of Episode 9: Shaan Gandhi

Grant: Welcome to The Bioinformatics CRO podcast. I’m Grant Belgard, and joining us today is Shaan Gandhi. Shaan, can you introduce yourself please? 

Shaan: Hey Grant, great to be here. I have a long and varied background, even though I’m only 35 years old. So I’ll start with the beginning. I grew up in Michigan, went to undergrad at Case Western Reserve University, in Ohio. And then had the great fortune of going to Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship, to do my DPhil, as the Oxonians call PhDs, to do my DPhil in Medical Oncology. And specifically, my area of research was in cancer STEM cell biology, understanding what roles do STEM cells play in the pathogenesis and growth and metastasis of cancer.

I came back to the United States and went to medical school and business school at Harvard, and then trained as an internal medicine physician at Mass. General Hospital here in Boston, I live in Boston. And since I graduated from residency, I’ve been a venture capitalist in the biotech ecosystem, first at a Venture Capital firm called the Longwood Fund, where I started a string of immuno-oncology companies. Most prominently, a tumor microenvironment company called Pyxis Oncology that I co-founded with Tom Gajewski of the University of Chicago. And then most recently about a year ago, I joined another venture capital firm called Northpond Ventures, where I now work as a director, and at Northpond, I focus primarily on backing the best therapeutics companies in the United States and globally. Our mission at Northpond is to, frankly, make the world a better place, bring the promise of science to humanity. And we do that through a variety of ways in life sciences. I focus on therapeutics, my colleagues focus on other aspects within the life sciences ecosystem, such as research and development tools and diagnostics and life sciences software and analytics. But I focus primarily on therapeutics and it’s been an amazing experience being in biotech venture capital and in seeing all of the possibilities and innovations that are truly out there and the people that are so skilled and so intelligent that are trying to harness their intelligence and their skill set and experiences to make the world a better place through science.

Grant: Thanks for that, Shaan. So I think there are a lot of interesting things we can discuss about your path. Because of my ignorance about much of that, perhaps we can start with something I know a little better. Can you tell us a bit about your DPhil supervisor? 

Shaan: Absolutely. So my DPhil supervisor is named Sir Walter Bodmer, though we called him Sir Walter, because he is in fact a knight. He told us a story of how he got his knighthood.

Unfortunately, he didn’t have a ceremony where the queen, or one of her deputies taps him on the shoulder with a sword. I don’t believe that happens anymore. So, Sir Walter Bodmer: very, very long and illustrious career. He trained as a mathematician with Ronald Fisher of Fisher’s exact test and the F statistic. That’s ‘that’ Fisher. It’s actually kind of cool that I am Fisher’s academic ‘grandson’ through my supervisor. He trained with Ronald Fisher, trained as a mathematician, and started his career in statistics in biology. 

How do you apply statistical and mathematical rigor to what one would think are messy and dirty biological systems? And he spent a lot of that time looking at genetic populations, particularly in the United Kingdom with respect to broader populations. So one of his most famous works focuses on the genetic origins of the people of Britain. And he helped identify that a large portion of the British population came from Denmark and it was able to show that using genetics.

But he also looked at the use of statistics and mathematics in disease. Most prominently in colon cancer. How do you use mathematics to identify which genes are going to be the key drivers of colon cancer, pathogenesis, and metastasis? We know from a lot of work that Bert Vogelstein has done at Johns Hopkins University that, particularly in colon cancer, there’s this stepwise mutational pattern that we see, where you first see a loss of APC regulation, then you see a loss of KRAS regulation, and then finally see loss of P53 regulation in each of those sequential mutational steps leads to a more severe disease or a higher propensity to metastatic. 

And so sir, Walter dug into that much more deeply to understand: well, is it truly a sequential path or are there alternative paths that cancer can follow in order to grow more aggressively or in order to metastasize? Are there other genes that you see that are typically associated with these kind of canonical mutations in APC, RAS and P53? And so that’s what he spent a lot of his career on and continues to spend his career on.

And that’s part of my research projects with him when I was his graduate student. And in particular, it was understanding the roles of these genes in the cancer STEM cell population. I started my DPhil in 2007. The first papers that identified a cancer STEM cell population in solid tumors were published the summer before I started, so in June/July, and I started in September.

And then the first paper to describe the normal STEM cell in our colon that is there and allows for the colon to keep growing and keep regenerating, that was only described in 2008 by Hans Clevers in the Netherlands. 

So it was a very interesting time to understand: what did these cancer STEM cells look like? What were the mutational patterns associated with them? And, and why would that be important for thinking about cancer as a disease? Now, maybe take a quick step back. When I say the word cancer STEM cell, when I’m referring to, is this hypothesis that when you look at a tumor, the tumor is really arising from a cell or two that is originating the entire tumor.

Much as we know that STEM cells are present in our body and these STEM cells give rise to all the organs and tissues that make up our body. The same thing could potentially be true in cancer as well, where there’s one or two cells that for some reason or another accumulated enough mutations in your genome, where they have escaped normal control growth, the normal growth control mechanisms, and they grow uncontrollably.

And it’s those STEM cells that accumulated those mutations. And it’s those STEM cells that are continually leading to growth. And self-renewal of the tumor. This was a novel concept back in the mid 2000s. It still kind of is a novel concept. There’s still a lot of controversy about the topic, about whether they actually exist or what they actually look like. But it was a lot of fun to get involved in trying to understand when the field was in its infancy, what those STEM cells actually look like in colon cancer. If you know, they actually exist. 

Grant: So you’ve been immersed in bioscience, business and medicine. And now work at the interface of the three. What misconceptions do people in these fields commonly have of the others? What do you think is commonly misunderstood? 

Shaan: I think probably the biggest misconception is that the different actors think that they’re the only ones that care about truth and care about the underlying science. I definitely see a big misconception, particularly among academics or pure research scientists, that those of us on the financial side of the biotechnology ecosystem or on the business side, all we care about is money.

And I will say, you know, of those on the financial side there is a profit motive. These are for-profit institutions. They have taken investor money and thus it is a responsibility of these individuals to make sure that they are good stewards of their investors money. But, by and large, everyone does really care about the truth.

It’s really important because in biotech, biotech is unlike any other industry or sector where we all have to deal with absolute truth. Biology either works, or it doesn’t. The drug either works or it doesn’t work. You can’t fake that. You develop a drug and you give it to a patient. The patient either gets better or the patient doesn’t and you can’t fake that.

So you have to be certain that you’re getting the science right because if you don’t, it’s not going to work for the patient or it could actually lead to really horrible consequences for the patient. And no one wants that. So we all really care about what is scientific truth and how do we get there?

And if the scientific truth is such that the particular pathway we’re studying, the particular target we’re going after, the particular drug that we’re developing doesn’t work, it’s better that we stop the work now. Because if we keep going, it’s going to get found out sooner or later. And when that happens a lot of time, a lot of resources would have been wasted in the process. Rather than if you just stop it earlier.

And that’s a common refrain that I hear on the business side in biotech, where we frequently talk about how the programs are doing, how the science is progressing and that the science isn’t progressing. If we just, our hypothesis is incorrect about how important that biology is, then we move on to something else.

That’s the point of a hypothesis. You have to prove or disprove it. And if you design the right experiment, and if you ask the question in the right way, biology will show you what the answer is. And sometimes it’s good. Sometimes it tells you that you’re on the right track. A lot of times it tells you you’re not because biology is incredibly complicated.

We still don’t know. Why certain diseases happen, why certain diseases progress and why certain others don’t, and in particular people. Why certain diseases progress in certain people and why they don’t and others. 

That I think is a big misconception. And hopefully with more conversations among the different actors in the space. We all will come to understand that we’re all working toward a common goal here. We all want to uncover as much science as possible. We want to uncover the truth as much as possible, and then we want that truth to be translated into products that can help people. 

Grant: When did you decide you wanted to become a VC?

Shaan: It started really in residency. For your listeners who may not be as familiar with the training of a physician, typically in order for a physician to be practicing, they first go to undergrad, and they go to medical school, which is typically four years. And then after medical school, they pick whatever specialty they want to practice in.

So. If someone wants to be a general surgeon, if someone wants to be an internist, if someone wants to be a pediatrician, they then do what’s called a residency where they get specialized training in that particular area, so that they learn what it means to be a doctor in that particular field. 

And in certain cases, they need to get additional training in order to become more specialized, if the area is complicated, it’s very complex and thus requires additional training. So for me, I trained as an internal medicine physician. So the doctors you typically see in the hospital, they’re taking care of you or your primary care doctor. Those are all individuals that were trained as internists.

So that was a little bit of background. So it was halfway through my residency where I started thinking about what I wanted to accomplish with my career. A lot of experiences I had in residency. 

I was at Mass General Hospital, a very renowned tertiary care facility in Boston. We saw patients from all over the world that had very complex diseases and they came to us because they wanted our help. And we have really, really smart sub-specialists that are world experts in their particular area. And a patient coming to Mass General, they can benefit from their experiences in order to hopefully get help and get treatment for their particular ailment. 

At Mass General, I saw a lot of patients that had very severe disease and by and large–because I’m an internist. I’m not a surgeon, so I typically don’t do procedures. I prescribe drugs that hopefully modulates the biology of the disease so that the patient does better–I’m limited in what I can do by the drugs that I have at my disposal. If I’m taking care of a patient where there are no drugs available because we either don’t understand the disease enough or the drugs we’ve developed don’t really modulate the disease very well. I really can’t do much else for that patient. 

And it’s unfortunate, but it’s true. In many cases you just can’t do anything. It’s not like I can go in there and tell the cancer cells to go away or like pluck them out one by one. I just can’t do that. A surgeon can do that. As an internist, we don’t have that training.


So there were many circumstances in residency where I felt limited by what tools we had at our disposal to treat disease. And I slowly realized that maybe this is what I wanted to do with my career. This is how I wanted to show impact. I wanted to help develop those next generations of drugs that can really help people. 

In particular, a couple of experiences really stuck in my head. With respect to treating patients with cancer in the mid 2010s, we had the first generation of immuno oncology drugs that were approved by the FDA. So again, just a brief background of immuno oncology drugs. These are drugs that tell your immune system to recognize the cancer as, as a foreign cell, as a non-self cell and to destroy it in tumors that have figured out ways in which to avoid the immune system. These immuno-oncology drugs basically tell your immune system to ignore what the cancer is telling them, and to just go after them and destroy them. 

And the discovery of these immuno-oncology drugs actually led to the awarding of the Nobel prize in 2018 to James P. Allison and Tasuku Honjo for the discovery of two key targets that are important in immuno-oncology treatment: PD1 and CTLA4. So the first CTLA4 drug, which is called ipilimumab, was approved in 2011. The first PD1 drug called Nivolumab, I believe was approved in 2013 or 2014. I started residency in 2015. So when I first started residency, I took care of cancer patients. 

We Mass General has an inpatient cancer floor and all first-year residents that are in internal medicine spend time on that floor. It was heroin. We took care of patients that had widely metastatic disease. They were in very advanced stages of their disease. And we were trying to manage the symptoms. We didn’t have a lot of tools at our disposal when we were just trying to manage the system, manage their symptoms.

They had tried multiple clinical trials. Those drugs and clinical trials didn’t help them. Fast forward three years–so 2018–that was my final year of residency. Back on the same oncology floor. Now I was a supervising resident. I was a third-year resident. 

Drugs like ipilimumab, nivolumab, pembrolizumab, and other immuno-oncology drugs were now more widely available. And I didn’t see those patients as much on the floor. Those patients who had metastatic melanoma, they had metastatic non-small cell lung cancer, they got these immuno-oncology drugs and were cured and they went home to their families and they got to spend time with their families. They didn’t have to spend time in the hospital anymore. That’s crazy in three years from taking care of them and managing their symptoms to seeing them go home so that they can live out their lives with their families and their friends. 

Like that’s nothing short of a miracle. And that happened in three years. And that happened because there were some really smart scientists at Bristol-Myers Squibb, at Merck at Roche, at other companies that came up with these drugs, and that identified the targets, identified the pathways, understood why those targets and pathways are important in disease. And they literally brought miracles to these patients.


It wasn’t me that did it. It was the scientists and these drug developers that did it. And that among many other experiences really impressed upon me how important that work is and how vital it is for society. And it showed me that this could be a way in which I could have impact in my career. Now I’m not a tenured professor.

I’m definitely not someone like Honjo or Allison. They are way smarter than me. I’m not an experienced drug hunter, but what I did have was an understanding of science and of medicine and of business. And how those three could come together in order to identify and back the best science and that they get the right amount of investment so that the scientists and the physicians working at those companies can make the drugs that the world needs.

And so that’s how I came to venture. Venture allows me to do that. It allows me to take my background and amplify the intelligence and skills of really smart people in science to make drugs that the world needs. 

Grant: Speaking of going into venture, obviously there are many paths people take. What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of those paths? 

Shaan: You’re right. There are a couple of different ways in which you can go into venture. I think it depends on what you want to accomplish with your career and how you see venture playing a role in accomplishing those goals you have professionally. 

There are paths where you can go right into venture right after school. There are paths where you can spend time in academia as a researcher, where you can spend time in the biopharmaceutical industry as a researcher, and then move in. There are paths where you go to another business, say a consulting firm or a financial institution, investment bank, and go into venture. Or you could become an operator at a biopharmaceutical company. Not necessarily in the scientific realm, but in the operations or finance or business functions of it. And all of those ways are equally valid, but they definitely will color your experiences. And thus will color your interests as a venture capitalist. 

Say you spent time at a consulting firm and then moved into venture. The consulting firm of course teaches you a lot of business skills and how to analyze. Financial statements, how to analyze business strategies. And so when you go into venture, most likely that’s a lot of what you’re going to be doing because those are the experiences that you bring with you. If you spent time in academia or in an industrial research laboratory, you of course became incredibly well-versed in a particular aspect of science and probably that will color your experiences.

And there are venture capitalists that are very science driven. There are venture capitalists that are very business strategy driven, and that’s how they identify their insights. That’s how they identify the best companies to back. And so I think that kind of lends itself to different firms, different philosophies, different ways of backing the best science in the world.

So it’s not that one way is better than another. It’s just that your experience in venture is going to be different. The firm you’re probably going to work for is going to be different. And so you just think about what kind of impact do you want to have professionally, and whether that impact would be more on the scientific side of identifying really promising science that needs some business help, or is it going to be more on the business side of identifying your really strong team with a really strong business strategy, who needs some help identifying which scientific avenues. 

Grant: What does a typical day look like for you? You knew that was coming.

Shaan: Of course I did. Mostly calls. I spend a lot of my time meeting with entrepreneurs and scientists to learn more about what they’re doing, learn more about the company that they’re building.

I spend a reasonable amount of time with our portfolio companies where Northpond has already invested. As part of my role as director, I sit on the boards of directors of these companies. And so the CEOs of our portfolio companies typically want my advice on certain matters, and I of course want to support them.

So probably about a third of my day is spent thinking about our portfolio companies, thinking about ways in which we can be helpful, about ways in which I could support their management teams. And then the other two thirds are thinking about other investible options and talking to entrepreneurs and learning about what they’re doing. And if it’s something that they’re doing that’s really compelling, then spending time understanding their science and understanding their business model. 

Grant: How can you help as a venture capitalist? 

Shaan: How can I help? I think I can help. You should ask my portfolio companies if I’m actually helpful. Hopefully they would agree with me. I typically help when they have questions about how the company should interact with the broader world. When it comes time to make strategic decisions about when to raise an additional round of financing, to support the company’s continued growth. When it comes time to think about interacting with a potential strategic partner–be it in the pharma industry or in the tools or in a diagnostic sector. Those are areas where I’d like to think I can be helpful and that venture capitalist can be helpful because those are areas where we spend a lot of time and we see a lot of it. 

That then sometimes trickles down into other aspects of the strategy of the business. So for example, if a portfolio company is thinking about interacting with a particular biopharma company, a large strategic company, part of understanding how that interaction should work, what should be discussed, is also thinking about what’s the scientific strategy for the company? What targets are being prioritized, which ones are being deprioritized, how are you analyzing those decisions? And then how are you building your team to answer those questions and pursue those particular priorities? So it does kind of trickle down into other discussions around scientific strategy, around organizational strategy or talent or talent retention and recruitment. But it all typically starts with us working with them on understanding how to interact with external actors.

Grant: So a lot of tech investors are starting to move into biotech, what do you think are the biggest differences between biotech and tech VCs. And what kind of learning curves do you tech VCs face in the life sciences? 


Yeah. You know, that’s an interesting question. We co-invest quite a bit with investors that started on the tech side rather than on the biology side. I think probably the biggest difference–and I actually see this as a positive. The biggest difference I see between tech investors and bio investors relates to how flexible and extensible the platform is. And I think that’s a legacy of how technology companies are built. 

If you look at the most successful technology companies in the world that were venture backed–so Google, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft–they were all founded on a very basic principle. And they’ve extended that principle to all sorts of business models. You think of Google, right? Their founding business principle was: they want to organize the world’s information. And you can take that in so many different ways.

Amazon’s founding business principle was delivering products and services to the world, and you can take that in so many different ways. And so I actually like it. I actually like working with tech investors because they bring that same mentality to biology. And oftentimes I feel in biology, we tend to get so fixated on a particular target or a particular pathway that we lose sight of why is this company special? Why is this team special? Why is their viewpoint on pursuing this indication with this biology special? And it’s getting at that founding principle that a lot of tech companies get and they follow. And I think a lot of biology companies could do the same. So that’s something that’s really refreshing.

And that I actually like working with tech VCs very closely for that reason. There definitely are differences. There definitely are differences in knowledgeability of the broader life sciences ecosystem, of getting very deep into the weeds of the science and understanding whether the experiments that the company has done actually prove or disprove the biology they’re trying to pursue.

I think that’s where more collaboration between tech and bio investors would actually be a really good thing because we have different skill sets and we have different experiences. And I think both can be very complimentary. 

Grant: How has COVID affected biotech VC, and what do you think will and will not persist post COVID?

Shaan: So I’ll set aside all of the market impacts of COVID. So, as I’m sure a lot of your listeners will appreciate, the stock market has done incredibly well, inexplicably to many, but has done very well. And so that has affected how venture investors, who are fundamentally in finance, think about investments. Because the public markets often are a source of exit for these venture investors.

When you think about the drug development enterprise, though, I think COVID has exposed a lot of the fragilities in how we make new drugs. A lot of drug development is reliant upon easy interfacing and flow among organizations that are worldwide. 

So thinking about contract research organizations, right? A lot of them are not located in the United States. And so in order for samples or data to be exchanged, that has to be done very easily. And in the era of COVID where there are travel restrictions on the movement of people around the movement of goods. That has exposed how fragile those supply chains really are.

It’s also exposed how fragile our clinical trial system is, where even today in 2021, a lot of clinical trials are recruited using email. You store data, using Excel spreadsheets. There’s no real automation. A lot of things are still done on paper. They’re sent via fax. And of course, in an area of COVID, where–I would say rightly in many cases– patients don’t want to come into a hospital and potentially expose themselves to COVID-19. I get that that’s a rational fear. The study staff, they may be affected by COVID and thus, they’re not able to show up at the actual hospital or at the clinic site in order to do intake for patients, in order to collect information, in order to fill out forms.

So it’s exposed a lot of fragility in how we conduct clinical trials. And so I think going forward, it’s really accelerated some trends in optimizing these processes in exchanging data electronically, collecting and analyzing data electronically rather than using paper, rather than using spreadsheets. Optimizing workflows, so that there’s less human interaction needed. So a sample can get sent from the United States to Europe or Asia. And the sample can go to the right place in that destination country and then can get processed and handled quickly rather than having it exchange multiple hands in order to figure out where it needs to go.

So I think there’s a lot of opportunity for automation. In these types of systems. And then on the clinical trial side, COVID definitely has slowed down a lot of clinical trial processes from a recruitment standpoint. And then from a recruitment standpoint, it slows down how quickly we get the data so that we can tell whether the drug is working or not.

And so it’s accelerating a lot of trends in doing things at home, doing things electronically. There are so many ways in which a patient may not actually need to go to the clinic. In order to get their blood drawn or in order to get their vital signs checked that can all be done at home. And it’s easier for the patient. The patient doesn’t have to drive hours to get to the hospital. They can just do it in the comfort of their home. 

And from a clinical trial sponsor perspective, it allows them to draw upon a larger pool of people who could potentially benefit from being in a clinical trial and could potentially benefit science and humanity. 

So I see those trends accelerating in the future because of COVID: automation, at home testing, remote testing, and the synthesis of the paperwork and data collection and drug development that can be done using computerized methods or using automated methods rather than needing people to do it.

So on the tech side, people talk about COVID having accelerated decentralization and greater dispersion of portfolio companies where investors are willing to invest and so on. Whereas previously, it was quite easy to stick to companies in the Bay area. Now they’re looking further afield. Is the same thing happening in biotech? And do you anticipate this will persist post COVID? 

Shaan: Absolutely. And I think it’s a great thing that is happening. Definitely in biotech, the hubs of Boston and San Francisco in the United States, and then perhaps to a certain extent London in Europe. There used to be an aphorism that if you were a life sciences company in the United States, if you really wanted to attract investor interest, you had to go to Boston or San Francisco. Because there are many investors who will not go further than an Uber ride to meet their portfolio companies.

And I think it’s a great thing that with COVID: a lot of investors, ourselves included, realize that you can invest in companies outside of biotech hubs. So it’s good for entrepreneurs. You don’t necessarily have to move. You can keep your technology where it is, and it’s good for other cities because why should Boston and San Francisco get all of the attention when there’s amazing scientific work being done elsewhere? And at other institutions that aren’t necessarily in Boston or San Francisco. 

So I see that trend accelerating. I see the events of 2020 as showing investors that they can invest outside of biotech hubs and that they can be successful investing outside of biotech hubs. And I hope that this trend will persist after the pandemic subsides. 

Grant: How about things like remote work? Or virtual, one-on-one partnering conferences, things like that, do you think that will persist? 

Shaan: I think it will persist to a certain extent. I don’t think we’re going to be going into the office every day from now on. I think the events of 2020 have proven that we can be just as effective being at home or being someplace else other than the office.

But I do feel that there are some intangible benefits that come from meeting people in person. You know, we’re humans. We’re social creatures. We want human contact. We want face-to-face contact. Even though you see someone over a zoom screen and you see their face, it’s still not the same as being there in person picking up all of the social cues and all the behavioral cues, engaging in chit-chat.

I look at my schedule, I have zoom calls that are back to back. And so you lose that human connection that comes from just chit chatting about the weather or about other small talk things that actually lead to closer relationships. 

And same thing when it comes to partnering, a lot of these partnering conversations happen at conferences. And there are a lot of chance encounters that occur that weren’t planned because you happen to be in the same room and you happen to talk to someone when you’re getting coffee and you randomly realize that you’re in the same business and you care about the same things. So I do think that partnering will probably return to face-to-face.

I think a lot of networking and company presentations will return to face-to-face, but it may not be to the same extent as it once was. Maybe it’ll be like the first meeting will be in person or maybe the last meeting will be in person, but then everything else will be over virtual conversations. And yeah, that’s kind of what was going on before COVID. But I think it’s kind of accelerated. 

Grant: Are you willing to go out on a limb and guess what the next several months might look like for us in the US? 

Shaan: You know, I have a lot of high hopes that the vaccine will be distributed widely and that we can accelerate our distribution of the vaccine. I think that’s really the key to us returning to normal. It’s getting the vaccine into as many arms as possible. 

I sometimes think of the year by academic conferences. So you have AACR in April. You have ASCO in June. You have SITC in November. You have ASH in December. I’m hopeful that SITC in November will be in-person. I’m hopeful, but there’s a strong likelihood that won’t be the case. I’m hopeful that by the end of 2021, we’ll be seeing each other in person again, but I think that’s all predicated on how quickly we can distribute the vaccine. I think we’re starting to get there at least here in the United States.

Obviously there are other countries in the world that are doing an amazing job of vaccinating as many people as possible, particularly those at heightened risk. And so I’m hopeful that we can get there as well here in the States. 

Grant: So zooming way, way out, over the next generation what do you think are the greatest opportunities and the greatest risks for biotech in the next decade?

Shaan: I actually see them as two sides of the same coin. And it comes to: we are quickly understanding how to treat a wide variety of diseases. We have gene therapies that are now approved for use. We have cell therapies that are approved for use. We have antisense, oligonucleotides and short interfering RNAs that are approved for use. Then you of course have hundreds and hundreds of small molecules and antibodies.

And so I think we’re going to come to a point where, for a wide array of diseases, we actually will have the tools to cure, or at the very least significantly alter in a good way, the trajectory of the disease. And that will be amazing for humanity when we get there. And we’re getting there.

We then have to think about: These therapies are expensive to make, they’re expensive to discover, and they’re hard to distribute. We have to make sure that as we’re discovering all of these cures, that all people can benefit from them. And that we don’t turn into a society where only individuals with access or only individuals with wealth can actually have and be treated by these life-saving drugs.

So it’s an opportunity and a risk. It’s an opportunity to fundamentally rid the world of disease. But it’s also a risk of maybe ridding only certain worlds of disease, but then leaving other worlds behind. And that I think is something that can’t happen. We can’t let that happen. 

Grant: Do you have any, any parting words for our listeners?

Shaan: Biotech is an amazing space. If anyone has an interest in biology or chemistry and wants to make the world a better place, I can’t think of a better sector than biotech to make that happen. I’m eternally grateful that I get to be in the spot that I am to potentially help the world.

Grant: So thanks for joining us today, Shaan.

Shaan: No problem. This was great.