Company: InterWest Partners
Title: Managing Director
With a keen eye for innovation and deep scientific curiosity, Farah Champsi has been on the front lines of biopharma investing for 30 years. She has worked with dozens of scientists and innovators, helping many of them go from idea to molecule to initial public offerings and buyouts.
"She is as skilled as anyone in thinking about the science of new companies and in many cases, intuitively even better," said InterWest Partners' general partner Arnold Ornosky.
Champsi joined InterWest last year, after 15 years of leading investments at Alta Partners, where she continues to manage Alta legacy funds until they wrap up, probably later this year. At Alta, she led investments in Agensys, which was acquired by Astellas; Orphan Medical, which was acquired by Jazz Pharmaceuticals; and Esperion Therapeutics and Excaliard Pharmaceuticals, both acquired by Pfizer.
She currently serves on the board of Allakos Pharma and Kite Pharma, with the latter recently garnering a lot of attention for its CAR-T candidate KTE-C19. The company, which went public in 2014, is in the lead in the hotly contested CAR-T world at the moment, with plans to file its prospect for FDA approval by the end of the year.
Barring any unexpected surprises, Kite believes it is on track to become the first company to win a CAR-T approval--and a launch in 2017.
Champsi has a special connection with Kite as the only venture capital investor allowed in its initial funding. It was Champsi who had known Kite's founder and convinced him to let Alta invest, Oronsky said, noting that was just one example of her trusted relationships in the industry, astute scientific knowledge and deft ability to see what's coming next.
Before joining Alta, Champsi was an investment banker at Robertson Stephens & Company focusing on biotech and life sciences; there, she built one of the most successful life sciences investment banking franchises on Wall Street in the '90s.
She holds an MBA from Stanford University and a undergraduate degree in economics from Smith College. She is on the board of UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals.
Her passions aren’t limited to biotech investing, however. Oronsky noted that Champsi is also an avid fan of baseball, hockey and basketball--and plays basketball herself.