Ester Sklarsky has built a career at the intersection of business and biotech. With years of experience in finance, life sciences, and the public health sector, she’s absorbed unique insights into what it takes to advance scientific innovations. And as Associate at Sound Bioventures, she helps those innovations reach patients.
When Sklarsky began her journey into biomedicine, she was seeking answers to some immense questions: how does human biology work and why do people get sick? She wanted to contribute to curing serious diseases. And the more Sklarsky learned, the more she was struck by the long distance that scientific research has to travel before it can make a concrete difference for the people who need it. That’s when her curiosity took her in an unexpected direction.
“I chose the business side of life science and did my masters in bioentrepreneurship,” Sklarsky explains. The shift allowed her first-hand knowledge of all the angles in biotech and drug development, from funding to management to implementation.
“It fast-forwarded me to a place where I saw the science coming closer to patients,” she says.
Thanks to Sklarsky’s drive to explore new areas of biotech, she’s cultivated a remarkably layered skillset. Her time at an investment bank gave her expertise when it comes to capital needs and the benefits, as well as drawbacks, of various funding sources. It also drove home how crucial the finance industry is to advancing life-science innovations. Working as a management consultant for healthcare systems offered more insights. Sklarsky saw first-hand the complex institutional factors that go into bringing a new therapy to market.
When she was hungry for another challenge, the skills she had amassed made her a great fit in the world of venture capital. And that area, in turn, had precisely what Sklarsky was looking for — closer proximity to scientific discovery.
“Venture capital really spoke to me because you get to be close to where the innovation is being translated into new medicines or new technologies that will hopefully have a true impact for patients,” she says. “Being close to science, but also being close to the business of science.”
Sound Bioventures’ focused investment strategy and global reach made the firm stand out to Sklarsky. But the most significant draw was the combination of deep experience on the team and the founding partners’ commitment to nurturing new changemakers. It’s an ideal environment for her to grow.
“It was clear to me that they were not hiring someone just to do this job now, but also hiring someone to do their jobs in the future,” says Sklarsky. “They’re really spending their time and effort with the more junior people to ensure that we are taught the job of being an investor.”
As Associate, she works a lot with deal flow, looking for the right investment opportunities and doing due diligence on the scientific, clinical, and commercial levels. The role has also meant an opportunity to be a board observer for some of Sound Bioventures’ portfolio companies.
Sklarsky describes it as an empowering experience, especially the occasional chance to stretch beyond her limits. “Having a very supportive team behind you puts you in a position where you dare to make your own decisions and dare to be a little bit ahead of your position, so to speak. You grow into the boots,” she says.
For Sklarsky, there are a few selected elements that can make an investment opportunity exciting.
The most prominent are the novelty of the idea and its direct application for a specific patient population. “It is not just cool science, which is also fascinating, but cool science that’s implementable to an unmet medical need,” she says.
Another major factor is timing. Sound Bioventures seeks to focus its resources where they can have the greatest impact, considering fund size and experience. They look for investments where a company has already raised some capital and progressed to the point of needing larger sources of funding, which is typically just before the clinical stage. Then, the firm can help them get their therapies to that next phase of development.
“That’s where our funds can make the biggest difference,” says Sklarsky.