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Business Development

This blog was written by Tariq Kassum, COO and Head of Corporate Development at Obsidian Therapeutics, as part of the From The Trenches feature of LifeSciVC.

Experience can be a tough teacher. Over the last two decades as a biotech investment banker, investor, pharma business development executive, and now company entrepreneur I’ve built up my fair share of deal-related scar tissue. However, for my first LifeSciVC post today, I’ll share three key lessons that I was lucky enough to learn in a completely pain-free fashion. Plus, I’ll provide some thoughts on how you too can accelerate your learning in a way that doesn’t leave visible marks.

First, some background

I trained as a medical doctor but then moved to the business side of healthcare – originally as a biotech investment banker, then as a healthcare stock analyst. In 2009 I left Wall Street and started working for Millennium/Takeda, where I had a number of roles including leading BD finance, running oncology BD, and, for a mercifully brief stint, leading global M&A (short version – I’m still getting over the jet lag). I had a great run at Takeda and learned a lot from many good people, but eventually I needed to scratch my bio-entrepreneur itch, which led me to Atlas and, ultimately, Obsidian Therapeutics. I’ll have plenty more to say about Obsidian in later blog posts but suffice it to say that our science is clicking and the opportunities in front of us are truly exciting.

My background as an investment banker was very helpful in terms of learning the space, grasping the fundamentals of finance, and becoming adept at creating slide decks at the last minute. However, when I moved to Millennium, it became clear that my perspective was truly “outside-in”; I didn’t know how deals get done within companies. And those intracompany dynamics are complex. Over time, and after many faceplants, I ended up learning several lessons about how to think about pharma BD in real life, in real organizations, run by real people.


Click here to read more about Tariq Kassum three favorite lessons.

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