Norwest recently welcomed Tiba Aynechi, Ph.D. as a general partner on the healthcare team. Tiba brings a wealth of knowledge and experience, having spent 11 years at Novo Holdings A/S, most recently as senior partner focusing on early- and mid-stage biotechnology, medtech and healthcare IT. Some of her top investments included Nkarta Therapeutics, Mirum Pharmaceuticals and MDLive.
Tiba shares below what led her to Norwest, where healthcare and biotechnology are headed, and what her plans are to help innovators launch and grow companies that will have a lasting impact on these industries.
Q: Why did you join Norwest Venture Partners?
Tiba: After having been at Novo Ventures for almost 12 years, I was ready to take the next step, but it had to be the right fit. I’d sat on the boards of Avalyn Pharma and iRhythm Technologies with Norwest, so I knew how the team approached its investments and how it engaged with a company’s leadership teams. For me, Norwest offered the perfect combination of portfolio involvement and engagement, along with people that truly care about the companies they are backing and a solid reputation in the industry.
It was also important to me to find an environment where there was a collegial, low-ego and collaborative culture, and I felt that immediately at Norwest. This is a firm that commits for the long haul, trusts in its portfolio partners to lead and offers guidance to management teams as needed.
I’m looking forward to spending my time supporting our founders and bringing their ideas to life, as well as working closely with our portfolio companies to help them succeed while still allowing them the latitude to determine what’s best for their team and their company’s mission.
Q: What are your goals in this new role?
Tiba: We have made a strategic decision to expand our investment focus more aggressively in biotech and my charter is to build a world-class team to grow that line of business, deliver positive investment results and, ultimately, improve outcomes for patients and their providers.
I believe the best investments are those where we uncover an unmet need and build a solution around it. A great example of this is iRhythm Technologies, where the founders realized that existing solutions for diagnosing cardiac arrhythmias were archaic and came up with an innovative approach that is now standard of care in many top institutions.
I have had a lot of experience starting and growing companies, including Nkarta, Spruce Biosciences and Avalyn Pharma to name a few. I’m looking forward to building a team here and working together to have a profound impact through our contributions to the industry. I know we have an opportunity to create companies that will improve lives everywhere and I’m ready to get started.
Q: What do you think are the biggest opportunities in healthcare today?
Tiba: In the last 10 years, there has been exponential growth in scientific breakthroughs and translation of novel biology to medicine that can be built upon by investing in continued biotech innovation.
For example, by taking advantage of the groundwork that has been laid in cell therapy and gene therapy, there is an opportunity to invest strategically in companies with targeted and potentially curative therapies. The new vision for healthcare includes predictive, preventative, as well as curative solutions. There is an increased focus on individual care enabled by multidisciplinary approaches incorporating AI and machine learning. We’re also seeing tremendous innovation in digital platforms and the use of virtual technologies that help providers everywhere to deliver better care and healthier outcomes for their patients.
Q: What are a few insights you can share with startup entrepreneurs?
Tiba: Biotech investing is more complicated than most sectors, because you not only have to tackle the scientific challenges but also have to meet stringent regulatory standards and reimbursement requirements. Building a biotech company is itself an empirical science, and it takes time and experience. Having a partner who’s done it before can be a great advantage, especially for first-time founders.
I tell all entrepreneurs I meet to make sure they are gaining an investment partner who deeply understands their sector and can enrich their own capabilities and experience, offering guidance and support throughout the entire journey. They should look for someone with domain expertise and a network built around the needs of a young company – all of which can prove to be invaluable. And, perhaps most important for first-time founders, it is imperative that the investor truly understands the entrepreneur and what they are trying to accomplish; there must be chemistry.
An investor should be a knowledgeable resource that can help with fine-tuning and refining a founder’s overall strategy, making introductions, and offering insights when tough decisions need to be made.
At Norwest, we’re domain experts in the healthcare sector, and we’re building the right team to dive even deeper into biotech in 2022 and beyond.
About Tiba Aynechi
Tiba brings nearly two decades of life sciences research and investing experience, spanning various therapeutic areas and technology platforms. Prior to serving as a senior partner at Novo Holdings A/S, Tiba was a director with Burrill & Company, where she focused on regional and cross-border M&A, licensing and financing transactions for biotech and large pharmaceutical companies.
Tiba earned a Ph.D. from the Graduate Group in Biophysics at the University of California, San Francisco, where her research involved developing computational methods for drug discovery, and a Bachelor’s degree in Physics from the University of California, Irvine. Tiba is a published author of several scientific articles and book chapters in rational drug design.