I first encountered Nils Lonberg’s creativity and curiosity 30 years ago when he was a scientist at GenPharm International – fresh from his post-doc – in the lab down the hall from me. It was during that time that I got to peer through Nils' microscope to see his ground-breaking handiwork injecting mouse embryos when he was “engineering” one of the world's first humAb transgenic mice in 1991.
From the beginning of his career through the development of a paradigm-shifting approach to cancer therapy – checkpoint-inhibitor drugs –Nils has been a superb “synthetic” thinker – someone who can bring together deep insights in drug development to address unmet clinical needs. 30 years later, as Nils has departed Bristol Meyer Squibb – more on that here – we have reunited at Canaan, and I’m thrilled that Nils has joined us as an Executive in Residence.
Nils brings exceptional insights into immunology and oncology to Canaan. In developing Yervoy and Optivo – two of the most high-impact drugs of our time – he has been at the forefront of game-changing therapies and how they have moved cancer treatment forward for melanoma, lung cancer and multiple additional tumor types. He personally teamed up with Nobel prize winner Jim Allison to unlock the potential of Dr. Allison’s insights into check point inhibition. So much of what we do is precisely that: team up with scientists to build companies that translate their breakthroughs into drugs for patients.
We’ve long believed in the importance of deep drug developer expertise to biotech investing and have built a team to reflect that value. Tim Shannon was CEO of Curagen and SVP of Clinical Development of Bayer before becoming an investor at Canaan where he has married his medical background with his drug development experience to spot and incubate companies like Arvinas, Civitas and CytomX. Peter Farina has been an EIR with Canaan for 11 years after spending nearly 3 decades at Boeringer Ingleheim where he was SVP NA Development. During his time with us, he has been a tremendous partner and mentor to our investing team and to the scientists in our portfolio companies. Anil Singhal and Len Post also served more recently as EIRs before taking full-time CEO and CSO roles at Adicet and Vivace Therapeutics, respectively.
While immunology and oncology – and their interplay – have created one of the most exciting eras of drug development in the modern era, we have still only scratched the surface when it comes to some of the most common cancer types, such as prostate and major subsets of breast and colorectal cancer. Nils will be working to uncover novel drug discoveries and scientific talent to back as we seek to stand up new Series A companies in biopharma. He’ll also follow in the footsteps of our other EIRs in working very closely with a small number of Canaan portfolio companies. Welcome, Nils!