Haul a portable ultrasound machine around the Amazon basin for a year, and you’ll learn a thing or two about yourself. For Philip Brainin, it was realizing he had a sincere and steadfast urge to help as many people as possible. And that would put Brainin on the path to his current position as Analyst at Sound Bioventures.
After finishing medical school and his Ph.D. program (during which he was a research fellow focused on ultrasonography at Harvard Medical School), Brainin did a year-long clinical rotation in Copenhagen. He wanted to see if practicing medicine had as much appeal for him as research. It didn’t. Then after finding an intriguing research gap, Brainin put together a proposal to study the relationship between malaria and heart disease, building on the observation that there is a high rate of cardiovascular mortality in malaria-endemic areas.
“I was driven by a desire to help people that have a need, regardless of where they are,” says Philip Brainin, Analyst, Sound Bioventures.
Before long, he was heading to a region with one of the highest numbers of malaria cases in South America: the Brazilian Amazon. Some questioned any need to travel nearly 10,000 kilometers away from home, where there were plenty of patients and maladies to study and treat.
But to Brainin, geography was beside the point. “I was driven by a desire to help people that have a need, regardless of where they are,” he explains. “It doesn’t have to be in Europe. There are people and populations with large unmet medical needs in other places.”
As part of his study, which required collecting and storing medical samples, Brainin was responsible for establishing a biobank for the remote region. It’s still operating today.
During his time in Brazil, Brainin had encountered a few health tech startups. It struck him that venture capital focused on life sciences, like pharmaceuticals and biotech, could deliver more widespread help. Directly funding startups would enable the creation of new treatments and therapies, far eclipsing any difference one could possibly make as a single clinician bound to one region.
“With drug development, for example, you can reach many more patients and make a greater impact,” Brainin explains. “A VC firm can make sure that the people with the best ideas, the most groundbreaking science, have the financial support to develop those ideas.”
So upon returning to Denmark, Brainin was looking to join a VC firm. But not just any firm, one that matched his ambition to help as many people as possible, as well as his uniquely global outlook. It would need to be focused on life sciences, obviously, but also have a cohesive team that was dedicated and had a shared vision.
One firm caught his attention. Its founders had not only worked tirelessly to successfully raise capital amid the pandemic, but showed an international mindset for their investments, with offices in Sweden, Denmark, and the United States. It was Sound Bioventures.
As a core part of his role, Brainin manages deal flow and handles due diligence on both a scientific and strategic level. “It’s very much an exercise in asking the right questions to the science that you are presented with and being able to link that science into business and market knowledge,” he says. “It’s a potpourri of science, clinical knowledge, and business opportunities.”
But there’s also the human aspect. Sound Bioventures doesn’t just look at the product and intellectual property when it’s considering an investment, but the team at the center of a company.
“You take a good idea and if the team is not right, the likelihood of success is low. The same applies to a bad idea managed by a good team,” explains Brainin. “And I think in the end, you can condense it into two things: we invest in the company, but to an equal extent, we invest into people in that company.”
According to Brainin, there’s a critical advantage to the fact that he and his colleagues have complementary backgrounds which all share a common foundation.
“I think one of the best qualities of Sound Bioventures is that we’re all scientists. We don’t come with heavy finance backgrounds,” he says.
And while Brainin admits that the team’s diverse experiences include significant time in the business and investing worlds, their research, scientific, and clinical backgrounds still play a fundamental part in funding decisions.
“We’ve all picked up knowledge in the domain of finance,” he says. “But our core competencies are to be scientists.”