In late 2015, Andreessen Horowitz announced that it would put $200 million into startups that blended computer science with biology. Now, the Silicon Valley venture capital firm is adding another investor to help it dig deeper into the growing field.
Jorge Conde, former chief strategy officer at Syros Pharmaceuticals, will join in September as a general partner to make investments through the Andreessen Horowitz Bio Fund, the firm announced on Wednesday. He joins Vijay Pande, the general partner who, since launching the fund, has backed companies in cancer diagnostics, drug discovery, food waste, and health data analytics.
Whereas Pande was a chemical biologist at Stanford University, Conde’s specialty is in the business of biotechnology, specifically genetics. Before joining Syros, a Boston biotech firm that’s developing drugs that target the genome, Conde cofounded Knome, a human genome interpretation company that was acquired in 2015.
“One of the things that’s become clear is that this century is very much the biology century,” Conde told BuzzFeed News, citing the potential of the gene-editing technology CRISPR. Another area of interest for Conde is synthetic biology, a broad term for the emerging field of constructing new genes and organisms from scratch.
“My view of the world is that because we are in this sort of area of emerging biology as a technology in and of itself,” he said. “I think there’s going to be a wide range of opportunities that are very exciting for us to pursue.”
Pande said he’d started looking for a new partner about a year ago. He and Conde said they have invested in two yet-to-be-named companies.
Since the Andreessen Horowitz Bio Fund was announced it’s made a couple of seed investments, including in the health data analytics startup Cardiogram and the drug discovery startup TwoXAR, as well as bigger investments in Freenome, which is working on a blood-based early-cancer-detection test, and Apeel Sciences, whose proprietary coating is designed to extend the shelf life of produce.
Andreessen Horowitz (which also invests in BuzzFeed) is among a growing number of venture capital firms betting on health tech — a category that includes fitness-tracking wearables, technology that makes health care services more efficient, and FDA-compliant drugs and diagnostics.