Over the past year, WuXi opened its Israel office, and fostered a very close collaboration with Pontifax, a leading Israeli life science venture capital firm, working side by side on projects and investments. This month we had the chance to sit down with Ran Nussbaum, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Pontifax, to learn more about the WuXi-Pontifax collaboration and his take on what make this partnership successful.
WuXi: Since our readers may not be familiar with Pontifax, could you please tell us a little bit about Pontifax and yourself?
Nussbaum: Pontifax is a venture capital firm specializing in investments in incubation, seed or startups, early, and mid stage. We specifically focus on Israeli life science companies. Over the past 11 years, we have established four funds with more than $370 million under management and have worked with over 40 portfolio companies. Before founding Pontifax, I held positions in the life science industry as well as in crisis management and strategic consulting. I was the CEO of Biomedix and served as NasVax Ltd.’s and Ocon Ltd’s chairman of the board. After being involved with a number of companies on both technical and business development ends, I brought those skills and the expertise to found Pontifax with my co-founders, Tomer Kariv and Eli Hurvitz (former CEO and chairman of Teva Pharmaceuticals).
WuXi: As the co-founder of Pontifax, you must have been proud of its accomplishments. Could you please highlight some of Pontifax’s achievements in the last few years?
Nussbaum: There are too many to name – we have been very busy in the States. We took five companies public in the US in the last 18 months. We did great with Kite Pharma. We sold cCAM Biotherapeutics, a private biopharmaceutical company focused on the discovery and development of novel cancer immunotherapies, to Merck for $605 million.
WuXi: How did your collaboration with WuXi come about?
Our collaboration with WuXi began with WuXi’s visit to our Israel office. We presented our activities and from there we set the foundation for our collaboration and friendship. The culmination of this partnership is the opening of the WuXi Israel office within the Pontifax facility. This has allowed us to work closer on many fronts, such as engaging in side by side investments and offering WuXi services to Pontifax’s portfolio companies. We are currently thinking about other “out-of-the-box” ideas on how to collaborate further.
WuXi: You have collaborated with many life science companies. Based on your vast experience, is there a secret formula for successful collaborations? Do you see it in the Pontifax-WuXi partnership?
The key to the Pontifax-WuXi collaboration is trust and professional teamwork from both sides. Dr. Ge Li’s vision is very similar to our late founder, Eli Hurvitz who took Teva from a private small co. into a $60B market cap and a world leading pharmaceutical company. Eli and Dr. Li think big, plan big and aim high. We will continue to work together to find innovative ways to collaborate to help clients and make both our companies stronger and more successful.
WuXi: For WuXi, the partnership is a great opportunity, because it brings WuXi’s open access technology platform closer to its many existing customers and partners in Israel, one of the most dynamic healthcare innovation ecosystems in the world, while giving WuXi an insider’s point of view to the Tel Aviv-centered sector.
In addition, WuXi can invest in promising Israeli life science startups, particularly those that are developing technologies which advance its own capabilities. So, the partnership is very valuable to WuXi. We look forward to our fruitful collaborations Ran, and thanks for your time and insights.