In this episode of Hardman Talks, Brian Moretta interviews Sunil Shah, Managing Partner of o2h ventures. They discuss investing in early-stage drug discovery and how the environment has changed dramatically over the past couple of decades, with many major drug companies de-emphasising early-stage research. o2h ventures effectively relies on smaller companies finding and starting to develop interesting compounds, with the aim of buying them and only putting their resources behind them once there is some evidence of progress.
We talk about the attractions of drug platforms over those with a single compound. We dig into how AI is changing this landscape: Sunil is very keen on how it is helping those at the early stage of drug discovery to find more and better candidates for investigating. We also discuss areas that look particularly promising at the moment and what makes them interesting just now. Finally, Sunil explains the advantages of Knowledge Intensive Approved Funds for investors and why o2h became the first in the market to use this new structure.
o2h ventures operates from ‘The Mill SciTech Park’, which is developing a unique model for incubating small life science companies. The biotech sector is one of the leading sectors in the UK economy. The large pharma companies now rely on the small innovative biotechs for new ideas in disease areas such as cancer and neuroscience amongst others, which have led to higher potential exit valuations. o2h ventures has a track record of nurturing and investing in emerging life science and tech companies. The fund will help widen the community of investors that will help expand early-stage research in the UK. The o2h ventures team are leaders in the biotech community and have been actively involved as investors, holding various board/industry positions as well as being engaged in grassroots scientific activity for over 20 years.
Sunil Shah co-founded o2h ventures Ltd with his brother Prashant Shah in 2018. They have co-founded four companies with UK-based academics and entrepreneurs, provided consultancy services to five companies, held Chairman or Director-level positions in nine companies, built up a portfolio of twenty early-stage investments, and executed early-stage drug discovery research projects for fifteen different companies. In 2013, bucking a pattern of UK Science going to the USA for funding, Sunil and Prashant acted quickly to lead an academic spin-out from the USA with promising data in brain cancer and proceeded to run, externally fund and locate that company, Opal Oncology, in the UK. It provided direct, hands-on experience making the scientific decisions and managing the operations of a therapeutics company.