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Insights into Roche’s partnering and venture fund strategies

By 12.10.2023February 28th, 2024All, Features

Insights into Roche’s partnering and venture fund strategies

In our biotech networking event with Roche, powered by Innosuisse, we explored the path from pioneering scientific breakthroughs to successful biotech companies. Three Roche speakers provided insights on partnering, their venture fund arm, and essential growth strategies for smaller companies.

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Introducing Roche and the speakers

Roche needs little introduction. The company was founded in 1896 in Basel, giving it over 125 years of history. To this day, the founding families still hold the majority stake, enabling the company to concentrate on building for the next generation of healthcare so that everyone can spend more time with the people they love.

Innovation is at Roche’s core. It’s the #1 R&D investor in healthcare, has more than 30 medicines on the WHO’s list of essential medicines, and celebrated 39 FDA breakthrough designations to date.

Roche understands that innovation doesn’t thrive in isolation. Collaboration is key to getting access to breakthrough technologies and novel therapeutic modalities.

Fostering an optimal balance between internal and external innovation is a fundamental pillar of the company’s strategy. Therefore, Roche strongly believes in the fundamental value of partnerships – those have to be deep and symbiotic partnerships where both parties can bring in their strengths and benefit from each other in the most optimal way to deliver new solutions for patients.

Three speakers from Roche talked about what they’re looking for in partners and VC investments and how to connect with them the right way.

Avaleigh Milne

Head of Business Development for Pharma Research and Early Development at Roche

Carsten Kroll

External Innovation Lead - Small Molecule Research at Roche Pharma Research and Early Development (pRED)

Carole Nuechterlein

Head, Roche Venture Fund

Partnering with Roche

The approach we take to innovation is really a network approach.

Carsten Kroll

Since 2011, the Roche Group has launched 26 new medicines. Out of those, 22 have a partnering angle. This shows how much Roche values external innovation and how it complements their internal innovation and expertise.

This strategy has proven to be extremely successful, thanks to their stellar reputation as a partner of choice combined with their laser focus on selecting the right partners where they see not only a scientific but also a cultural fit.

Why partner with Roche

Besides being one of the biggest players in the healthcare industry, Roche places great value on enabling its partners to succeed and thrive with the ultimate goal of impacting the lives of millions of patients every year together.

With its selective approach, Roche focuses on partnering with companies that are working on making a fundamental difference through breakthrough science.

If it comes to a deal, Roche isn’t bound by specific deal structures. Whether it’s collaboration, mergers and acquisitions, options or licensing, Roche prioritizes flexibility and strives to tailor each deal to the needs of both parties involved. The focus always starts with the science and technology, ensuring that both parties can work together harmoniously to maximize success.

Partnering with Roche means joining forces with a company deeply committed to transformative science, guided by a meticulous selection process and supported by a culture that values innovation and collaboration.

Ultimately, partners of Roche have a high potential to drive meaningful change in healthcare on a global scale.

From the event’s Q&A session:

Q: What’s the key factor for biotech companies when choosing partners like Roche?

A: It’s not just about the money offered. Many biotechs choose partners like Roche because they don’t only contribute financially but also with their scientific expertise and especially their scale to actually get a drug to market quickly.


How to partner with Roche

We don’t just let opportunities come to us. We look for them actively, for example by joining networking events like this one.

Avaleigh Milne

Roche collaborates with a diverse range of partners worldwide. With a team of 120 people, including a dedicated Alliance Management team, looking after 250 partnerships, Pharma Partnering is spread across six locations around the world. It offers speed, flexibility and accessibility to its partners, no matter where they come from.


Roche’s current focus is:

What kind of partners is Roche looking for?

Roche is especially looking for innovative partnerships that will increase their pipeline value and overall patient benefit, balancing early- and late-stage partnerships across three categories:

  • Complementing Roche’s therapeutic area strategies to complement the internal portfolio
  • Augmenting Roche’s capabilities to discover and develop drugs
  • New opportunities, looking at the broader environment to evaluate areas where Roche might not be active yet, but where they still see significant unmet patient need

If you want to become one of Roche’s Pharma partners, head over to their partnership website and reach out.

Partnering with Roche

From the event’s Q&A session:

Q: When is the right time for a new and innovative company to approach Roche?

A: Timing depends on the idea and its funding needs. Smaller funding amounts are more likely to attract attention. It’s crucial to have a clear plan, proof of concept and an estimate of the required funding.

Securing venture investment from the Roche Venture Fund

From the event’s Q&A:

Q: How involved does Roche become when investing in early-stage companies?

A: Roche’s involvement varies, but besides the funding, we provide our team’s expertise whenever it makes sense.

The Roche Venture Fund invests to develop commercially successful companies in the life sciences space. Its current portfolio includes 37 companies and has an evergreen fund of CHF 750 million allocated from the balance sheet.

Roche’s investing strategy is straightforward:

  • Focus on Series A (or Series A-like)
  • 15–20% of ownership at first investment
  • CHF 5–25 M during life of investment
  • Pre-clinical therapeutics
  • 12–18 months from launch
  • Must have board or board observer seats

Carole Nuechterlein, Head of the Roche Venture Fund, presented a number of tips for a successful venture fund application.

Make sure you’re ready

You have to be past the idea stage of your startup. VCs typically seek tangible progress to reduce risk. But if you’re not at that stage yet, don’t wait to talk to VCs until you are. Building a strong relationship with them should start 1-2 years before funding becomes a pressing need.

Calculate enough time

Expect your fundraising campaign to take between 6 and 12 months. Look for funds that are interested in the area you’re working on, have fresh capital and, most importantly, can add value beyond money. Present your business plan and be prepared to make adaptations based on their feedback. In the end, persistence is key.

Be commercially viable

A VC wants to invest in a startup that’s innovative and differentiated but also addresses a commercial need. You need to prove that your startup will be a success in the long run by, in a best-case scenario, showing a target product profile.

Make it quick, interesting and truthful

Convey the value proposition in the first 5 minutes of your pitch. To do so, tell a story that’s true and, if possible, hits close to home. Be detailed, but don’t exaggerate or bluff if you don’t know the answer. VCs have enough experience to know when something is unrealistic.

Questions to answer in your pitch deck or business plan

There are a number of questions a VC will search answers to in your business plan or pitch deck. Carole usually wants to answer the following questions:

About science and technology

  • Is it innovative?
  • How much data is available now?
  • Is there a “killer” experiment, and is this included early enough in the plan?
  • What IP do you have?

About product

  • Does it address an unmet need?
  • What is the use/indication? Can it be differentiated? What is the target product profile?

About future plans

  • Next value inflection point?
  • Development pathway and route to regulatory approval/market
  • Timelines – realistic?

About the team

  • Track record, technical and commercial understanding; any gaps/key hires needed?

About financing

  • Valuation expectations – are these realistic?
    • You’re competing against public companies with low valuations
  • Money to be raised – fit for purpose? Milestones/deliverables?
  • Any “headroom” needed or operational delays, raising more money etc.
  • How much more money will likely be needed before an exit?

About syndicate

  • Is there/can we build a syndicate to fund through to exit?

VCs do a lot of due diligence

Before a business transaction occurs, VCs work through a deep research and analysis phase. This includes non-confidential diligence, signing CDAs, confidential diligence, internal presentations, creating term sheets, full IP diligence, and drafting the appropriate documents.

Be tenacious!

You’ll hear “No” a lot more than “Yes”. Keep listening to feedback and improving your business plan and pitch accordingly. It’s the only way to get the “Yes” in the end.

Roche Venture Fund

Get the slides!

Roche provided us with its presentation for this event, so you can freely download, save and share all information presented in this article — and some more.

Get Roche's slides

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If you’re at the start (pre-seed or seed stage) of creating the next biotech breakthrough with your therapeutic venture, click here:

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Roche networking event recap

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