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5 Questions with Jeff Kindler, a Veteran Pharma Executive, and Newest Member of the ARTIS Family

Our goal at ARTIS Ventures isn’t just to provide financial support to startups, but rather to become a true partner to innovative companies, breaking barriers with big ideas. In the increasingly complex world where health and tech are colliding to create the most exciting developments in history, we value the perspective of those who have helped pave the way, and would like to formally welcome Jeff Kindler to the AV family, as our newest operating partner.

Former chairman and CEO of Pfizer, and current CEO of Centrexion Therapeutics, a Boston-based biotech company developing non-opioid treatments for pain, our own Vasudev Bailey sat down with Jeff to get to know why he’s so passionate about the future of health.

Jeff, you and I have been connected for years, going back to when we were building the GLG Institute. In that time, you’ve also had a very high profile career as CEO of Pfizer. What appealed to you about joining the ARTIS family?

I value the fact that ARTIS is a relatively small, but highly dedicated team. This combination creates great opportunities to work closely together both in looking at deals and helping portfolio companies. I also appreciate the extent to which ARTIS has built an incredible network of experts and advisors who provide unique support to portfolio companies, and enable ARTIS to consistently offer expertise and guidance not commonly provided by firms of this size.

At ARTIS we’ve been watching the worlds of tech and biology converge for sometime, even coining a new industry known as TechBio. You’ve also worked in different industries from biopharma, to consumer, as well as industrial. How do you bring to bear your experiences in all those different fields to your work in venture capital?

Over many years, I’ve had the privilege of working at fairly high levels across a variety of businesses including pharmaceuticals, biotech, consumer, retail, and industrial. I think this has given me a great perspective on how those types of companies operate when it comes to advancing innovation, both within and outside of their own four walls. In recent years, pharma in particular has increasingly relied on early stage companies to supply a great deal of the innovation driving what can only be considered a golden age in biology, computation, and patient-focused treatments. I’ve spent a lot of time in the past several years helping to bridge these two critical parts of the healthcare ecosystem.

One of my biggest passions in healthcare is related to mental health, and it has been rewarding to see the advancements being made toward dealing with addiction, anxiety, and depression. What is a healthcare invention or advancement you hope to see in your lifetime?

Without a doubt, the ability to apply machine learning, artificial intelligence, and other computational powers to the many still-unsolved mysteries of human biology. The advancements these breakthroughs have already had, and will continue to have, a profound influence on the pace and success of our ability to reduce suffering and help people live longer, healthier lives.

There’s a quote that says “everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.” Will you share a pivotal moment in your career that had a lasting impact, perhaps changing how you still work today?

Early in my career, I had the privilege of working directly with the late Jack Welch, chairman and CEO of GE, on a number of important and complicated matters. He had an extraordinary ability to zero in on the key issues, and was therefore able to bring focus and clarity to the course of action. I’ve applied that ever since in trying to keep things as simple as possible.

The entire idea behind the GLG Institute was to create a consultancy of the largest network of ex-CEOs to engage in curriculum, presentation, and counseling for executives operating in increasingly complex business, regulatory, and technological environments. Your advice and counsel will provide tremendous value to the ARTIS family, but if you had one piece of advice for entrepreneurs and CEOs as they navigate the complex healthcare industry, what would it be?

Maintain your focus on the very few but important challenges and opportunities that make a difference to you, your customers, and stakeholders. Don’t allow one of your scarcest and most valuable resources - your time - to be consumed by needless complexity and other people’s agendas.