Life sciences VC Flagship Pioneering has been attracting some big names to its top management and shows no signs of letting up. Its latest addition is Stephen Berenson, a 33-year J.P. Morgan veteran who retired as head of investment banking at the firm earlier this year.
Berenson's new role at Flagship—which raised $285 million for a special op fund in late 2016—adds to the recent additions of former Novartis pharma head David Epstein, ex-Merck CMO Michael Rosenblatt and Jim Gilbert (formerly of Boston Scientific and Bain) at Noubar Afeyan's venture outfit.
Berenson tells FierceBiotech that having accomplished all he wanted at his former employer, he "wanted to try something completely new and transformative, while I was still young enough and full of energy."
"There's a thought in the industry that biotech will be to this century what information technology was to last century," he continues. "It's an amazing time to work in and around biotech, and it seems to me that the ideas are getting bigger over time. These ideas are excellent for society, and they will probably require more capital to accomplish."
Berenson says Flagship "sits at the epicenter of many exciting elements of life sciences innovation." He will join the firm's investment and management committees, working on capital formation both at the fund level and across portfolio companies.
A big draw will be getting back to "building companies and businesses," he tells us, and working with some of Flagship's current crop of 35 portfolio companies—which include Agios, Editas, Moderna and Selecta—on strategic and operational initiatives.
Berenson will be joining the boards of some portfolio companies as a result and will also be taking a broader strategic role at Flagship: developing and deepening external partnerships with corporate partners, nonprofit groups, and governments for example.
"As I was thinking about the next career move, I created some 'design principles' for finding an opportunity that I would be excited about: the expansiveness of the idea; the ability to be a principal, rather than an intermediary; and the opportunity to learn many new things. It became clear that Flagship not only met but exceeded these criteria, and I'm thrilled to be joining the team."
Afeyan said in a statement that Berenson's "deep understanding of fast-growing companies as well as market-leading organizations, coupled with a strong commitment to developing talent and leading high-impact strategic initiatives, will play a catalytic role at Flagship."
"The business insight he gleaned working for one of the world’s leading financial institutions is an invaluable resource to our young companies that are seeking the right strategic direction, investors and corporate partners to grow, evolve and thrive."