Westphal grabs reins at GSK's SR One, founds new venture group

Christoph Westphal is adding a new chapter to his story as a prime mover-and-shaker in biotech circles. Xconomy reports that Westphal has resigned as CEO of Sirtris, a high-profile developer in Cambridge acquired by GlaxoSmithKline, to take over as head of GSK's biopharma investment arm--SR One. He's also resigning as senior vice president of GSK's Center of Excellence for External Drug Discovery, handing that job to another Sirtris veteran, the 33-year-old Michelle Dipp, who will now play a leading role in hammering out new partnership deals for GSK. And there's more.

Westphal and Dipp are uniting with Sirtris co-founder Rich Aldrich to found Longwood Founders Fund, a new venture group that Xconomy's Ryan McBride reports is being backed by none other than GlaxoSmithKline. The purpose of Longwood, writes Westphal, is to "found, build and run important new medical companies, as we have been doing for the last decade."

This isn't idle boasting. Westphal, Dipp and Aldrich founded Alnara in 2008, and Westphal and Dipp also helped found a new institute to do research on healthy eating. During an earlier stint at Polaris, Westphal backed Sirtris, Alnylam and Momenta. You can expect plenty more deals in the not-too-distant future.

It's common for venture groups to work as a pack. But Westphal's new roles have inspired some head scratching among biotech bloggers.

"How does Westphal manage the conflicts that crop up when he chooses to pass on a certain investment?" opines In Vivo. "Is he making the decision as a Longwood investor or an SR One investor? Where does the continuum between SR One's investment philosophy end and Longwood's begin?"

- read the article from Xconomy
- here's the blog from In Vivo