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Meet a VC: Andrew Schiff, MD .

Nasdaq highlights the venture capitalists that build the startup landscape we know today. This week, meet Drew Schiff MD, Managing Partner, Aisling Capital

Meet a VC: Andrew Schiff, MD

Andrew Schiff MD Managing Partner Aisling CapitalAndrew Schiff, MD, Managing Partner, Aisling Capital

Dr. Schiff joined Aisling in September of 1999 and currently serves as one of the Managing Partners. Prior to Aisling Capital, Dr. Schiff practiced internal medicine for six years at The New York Presbyterian Hospital, where he maintains his position as a Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine.

Dr. Schiff currently serves as a director of Aclaris Therapeutics, ARMGO Pharma and PowerVision, and as a Board observer of Zavante Therapeutics. Prior Board service includes Adams Respiratory Therapeutics, Agile Therapeutics, ArgiNOx Pharmaceuticals, Barrier Therapeutics, Bioenvision, CardioKine, Cempra Pharmaceuticals, Miramar Labs, Myogen, SkinMedica, Sirion Therapeutics, TransEnterix, ZELTIQ Aesthetics and Quintiles (Board observer). He is a longtime supporter and Board member of the Visiting Nurse Service of New York.

Dr. Schiff received his M.D. from Cornell University Medical College, his M.B.A. from Columbia University, and his B.S. with honors in Neuroscience from Brown University.


How did get your start in the venture capital community?

I came to venture capital through the practice of medicine and was previously an internist at New York Hospital. During my time as a physician, I noticed that every time I prescribed a new drug there was a lengthy process of development and approval before it eventually made its way into my hands. I felt that if I came to venture capital, I could be more of an integral part of this drug development and approval process — and could move myself into more of a creative arena. I could be at the cutting edge of medicine and have the opportunity to expose myself to a lot of the new concepts and ideas that are driving life sciences today. Now, I’m 17 years in and have seen the differences between the two professions. VC is unstructured, and you can take many different paths to success. It’s creative and collaborative in that we’re all working together toward one common goal — the approval of new medical therapies.

What’s a day in your life as a VC like?

I start my day by reading the news for two or three hours. It’s important to keep up to date on topics related to life sciences — general policy, health, technology, etc. Once I get into the office, the day is filled with meetings for new companies, presentations to describe new and ever-changing technology, conferences discussing innovations in the field and calls speaking to various topics of medical interest. Overall, I try to keep the themes of curiosity and education top of mind. Whether it’s reading to stay scientifically literate, speaking with people in the industry to see what coming up in the pipeline, or constantly asking questions to delve deeper into the purpose behind a company’s mission — there is always an opportunity to continue learning.

How many companies have you invested in and what is your overall investment?

Aisling Capital has invested nearly $2 billion since it was founded 17 years ago — with the size of each individual investment being between $10 million and $15 million. We’re very disciplined in selecting the companies that we choose to invest in; typically we’ll see 700+ companies a year and choose to work with only a handful. To date, we’ve made around 100 investments.

What stage do you focus on and how much capital do you look to deploy for each portfolio addition?

At Aisling, we feel we add the most value to our companies at a stage where they have entered their clinical studies, and are moving along the path towards late stage clinical development, later stage clinical studies and approval in marketing. When deploying capital, we look to do this in phases. Initially, we may invest $5 million - $8 million, but reserve funds up to $15 million so that we can continue to support the company in whatever way they may need.

What matters to you most when evaluating a company as a potential fit for your firm and how does that relate to the ambitious companies that you have worked with in the past?

Personally, I like to support companies that I believe are capable of running their clinical studies, ultimately achieving the drug approval, and raising the capital that’s required to do that along the way. In general, it’s always well-received if we see a management team that has successfully accomplished drug approvals or been able to access capital to fund research projects in the past. But ultimately, a drug or a medication is used to improve medical care for patients. It needs to be quite clear the way in which a patient would benefit and it should be evident what the potential impact of the medication could be.

What advice do you offer to a first time founder?

You have to be up for the journey — and have a tremendous amount of energy! It’s necessary to get what needs to be done, done. It’s also important to have a clear understanding of your technology or drug, and have a clear strategy of what you intend to do in order to move the product into development. Before jumping in, try and assess potential competitors and where they may be — assess their advantages and drawbacks as you begin to take the path forward with your company.

What is the one common denominator that stands out to you across all great investments your firm has made during its history?

When investing, we’ve seen the most success with companies that assess a specific area of medicine for which patients clearly desire more treatments. Either the current options are inconvenient, only offer a limited amount of comfort, are difficult to administer, or are a combination of sorts. We’ve seen that the most impactful drugs are those that offer patients an important step forward. They should appeal to three groups- first of course patients, then physicians and key opinion leaders.


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Read important disclosure information on Aisling here.

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