August 6, 2014
Interviewed by: David Snow
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Bullish on Life Science VC

As the outgoing president of CVCA, Peter van der Velden has accomplished two things he set out to do: focus on compiling private capital data and hire a CEO. He’s also recently seen bright spots for investing in the healthcare innovation sector.

As the outgoing president of CVCA, Peter van der Velden has accomplished two things he set out to do: focus on compiling private capital data and hire a CEO. He’s also recently seen bright spots for investing in the healthcare innovation sector.

Bullish on Life Science VC

With Peter van der Velden of Lumira Capital

Can you talk about the goals of your CVCA presidency?

Peter van der Velden, Lumira Capital:

I’m coming to the end of my term, so I’m on the track of having accomplished the things I wanted to. For me, there were a couple of big priorities. Number one was doing what we’ve now done, which is to bring in a full-time CEO. The association is of a size and a relevance now where we needed to have a full-time staff member taking on the CEO role and we’ve accomplished that.

The other thing we’ve been focused on is taking control of our data. Having good data is a big issue for our members.

We’re looking to do more with our members around social venturing and social engagement, taking the business models that venture capitalists apply and trying to use those in not-for-profit sectors, and doing more around some of the professional development things.

What trends do you see in your full-time job investing in healthcare innovation?

van der Velden: It’s been a fantastic three years if you want to use that as a benchmark for our sector, particularly with liquidity in the public markets. There’s been a lot of follow on capital and a lot of new capital coming into the market.

We’ve seen ongoing changes within big pharma—a lot of acquisitions and consolidation. That movement of pharma to focus on the distribution end of the business is creating tremendous opportunities for the innovators and venture-backed companies to create the kinds of products those guys will ultimately acquire. We’ve seen the series A and series B rounds we’re participating in—40% of the time we have a corporate investor in those rounds. That’s a terrific change in the ecosystem. It brings a high-value partner alongside us very early on as we build these companies.

That’s a big change that is really important. Obviously, there are some huge trends that are affecting our space right now. Diabetes is growing on a worldwide basis. It now affects more than six million Americans. We’re seeing obesity as a huge problem throughout the world. Again, expanding into the third world, the diseases that come from that—whether it’s cardiovascular disease or obesity or blindness or skin wounds and lesions from diabetic ulcers—are all disease opportunities that we’re now going after and trying to target. It’s absolutely a fantastic time to be in our space.

Is it important to have corporate investors?

van der Velden: Merck, for instance, is a limited partner in our fund and have been for two years. That’s been a terrific partnership. It’s two-dimensional. They’re ultimately a potential acquirer and that’s great for our companies, but it’s way more than that. It’s their insight in terms of dealing with a lot of the business issues we want to deal with. They make the resources available to us, whether it’s on manufacturing issues or intellectual-property issues or reimbursement issues. That helps our companies make better decisions as we go forward. Whether it’s the partner who’s in the deal or it’s somebody else, having those guys onboard earlier is certainly the trend and it’s a very positive one.

Are you hoping to capture the attention of LPs outside Canada?

van der Velden: That’s really the opportunity we’re seeing now. Those kinds of numbers—which are clearly competitive on the global scale—mean that Canada will be able to engage a lot more of those foreign investors.

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