The top 25: Jens Eckstein, SR One

There are few venture groups that cross the threshold of investing more than $1bn, and latest to the club was GlaxoSmithKline’s independent corporate venturing unit, SR One.

Jens Eckstein took over as president of SR One in 2012 and said last year it passed $1bn in cumulative investments with five new investments, three companies founded or co-founded by SR One and 29 follow-up investments.

Despite the activity this was still below the record in 2015’s 54 financings – more than one transaction each calendar week – the 54 included 10 new companies, five fund-of-funds investments (legacy), one IPO participation and two public follow-ups, Eckstein said for last year’s GCV Powerlist.

He said last year was “another good one” and included the “first successful graduation of a new company from the new SR One entrepreneur-in-residence initiative in an oversubscribed round – Palleon Pharmaceuticals”.

Palleon was founded by Jim Broderick as a biotech company developing novel drugs for diseases characterised by dysregulation of the immune system.

SR One bagged a return with the flotation of Crispr Therapeutics and two trade exits, Nimbus Therapeutics’ Apollo subsidiary to Gilead for $400m initially and up to $800m in performance fees, and UK-listed Adheron to Roche for $105m initially and up to $580m depending on performance. The Adheron deal was announced in October 2015 but closed last year.

SR One operates independently of GlaxoSmithKline and is not a strategic investor, with the pharma group doing some strategic venture investing on its own, as both fund commitments and direct equity investments. Thinking back to last year, Eckstein paid tribute to a team that had remained remarkably stable over the past six years even after Kent Gossett’s death in 2013.

Eckstein joined SR One after working at venture firm TVM Capital as a general partner since 2007. He joined TVM as a principal in 2004. At TVM he became chief executive of SelectX Pharmaceuticals, and was also an entrepreneur-in-residence at the company.

He gained a PhD in biological chemistry from University of Konstanz and Harvard University, and became a post-doctoral fellow at University of California San Francisco. Between 1993 and 1999 he worked at healthcare startup Mitotix, which was acquired in 2000 by German biotech company GPC. He was then at Enanta Pharmaceuticals as director of lead discovery and research from 1999 to 2003, before founding Akikoa Pharmaceuticals, where he worked from 2003 to 2005.

He is an adviser to the Alzheimer Research Forum, a founding member of the Cure Dystonia Initiative Advisory Council and a Kauffman fellow.