The rest of the 100 (in alphabetical order): Scott Brun, AbbVie Ventures

Following the creation of pharmaceutical company AbbVie’s corporate strategy office in late 2015, executive management decided to refocus AbbVie Ventures with a mission to pursue early-stage investments closely aligned with AbbVie’s research and development strategy and core areas of drug discovery and development.

It was natural this effort should be managed by a senior leader from R&D, one with significant experience implementing and leading the company’s research strategy. In April 2016, therefore, Scott Brun was appointed head of AbbVie Ventures as well as vice-president in the company’s corporate strategy office.

Henry Gosebruch, chief strategy officer at AbbVie, for last year’s Powerlist award said: “Abbvie Ventures is an important component of our overall external innovation strategy. Developing relationships with and investing in the next generation of scientific advancement is a critical complement to AbbVie’s existing research strategy.

“Scott Brun, with his two decades of leadership in our world-class research organisation, is the perfect leader to advance our mission to partner researchers and entrepreneurs at the forefront of scientific exploration and to provide valuable expertise and guidance to emerging companies.”

Consequently, the team said it had prioritised opportunities with early-stage companies developing innovations with the potential to address significant unmet needs in immunological, oncological and neurodegenerative diseases.

The company said: “By investing in areas in which AbbVie has deep R&D, regulatory and commercialisation expertise, we believe we can play an important role in advancing early-stage innovation through our venture activities.

“AbbVie views these endeavours as complementary to our internally-driven drug discovery work and our business development efforts. Extending our R&D reach and scientific interchange with the external community, including academic institutions, provides significant value both to AbbVie and to emerging companies that can leverage our experience to help them achieve their corporate development and program objectives.”

AbbVie’s main investments this past year include Jnana Therapeutics, which raised a $50m round series A round in December to develop drugs targeting solute carrier transporters, proteins that move substances across cellular membranes, for immune-oncology therapies and Palleon Pharmaceuticals, which raised $47.6m in October for its mission to discover cancer therapies related to the glyco-immunosuppression axis.

The firm also contributed to a $30m series A round for Disarm Therapeutics, a company that aims to inhibit a protein called Sarm1, identified as a driver of axonal degeneration, responsible for disability and disease progression conditions affecting the central, ocular and peripheral nervous system; as well as a $31.3m round for Exicure, which is using nanotechnology to build spherical nucleic acids that can enter cells without producing an immune response as a treatment for inflammatory diseases, genetic disorders and cancer.

Through these investments, AbbVie said it had strengthened relationships with top-tier institutional and corporate venturing firms via co-participation on portfolio company boards but it has concerns about the longer-term.

Brun said in the GCV outlook survey its areas of portfolio focus by technical area or platform will become important. “As new funds begin investing, how many more bets on immuno-oncology will VCs be willing to make? Will VCs be willing to invest in immunoscience and neurodegenerative disease even though translational uncertainty exists in these areas?”

AbbVie Ventures said last year it was focusing on building its presence in the San Francisco Bay area, having expanded its team with the hire of Priyanka Rohatgi, a GCV Rising Star 2016, and John Gustofson.

AbbVie Ventures also said it was becoming engaged even earlier in the company startup environment by leveraging the company’s network of academic collaborations and relationships to target investments in emerging innovation from top-tier institutions and partnering other venture capital firms on these seed-stage opportunities.

Brun has had plenty of experience in these areas, having previously been a vice-president in drugs development at AbbVie since 2012. A year later, in 2013, AbbVie was formed as a spinoff from Abbott Laboratories. Brun had worked at Abbott since 2002, a few years after completing his education at Harvard Medical School, Johns Hopkins University and University of Illinois.