Houman Ashrafian

“SV is a really interesting place. It’s unique for a number of reasons.”

“First, it’s truly a transatlantic fund. Unlike other firms that purport to be international, at SV there’s equipoise between U.S. and European weightings. You get all the benefit of the different cultural paradigms and investment philosophies.
“The mix of European and U.S. perspectives helps us. We’re always cross-fertilizing ideas on how to build and finance companies. We continually educate ourselves on the best ways to do deals and interact with entrepreneurs. We frequently check each other’s homework – we’re unique in our ability to stay up to date with different transactions and investment vehicles.

“If you look in my diary, you’ll find that in the morning, I’m going into the weeds of the science. In the middle of the day I was in the weeds of logistics and execution – how to deliver, at what cost, a very operations-y discussion. And just now, I was involved in a very detailed commercial set of discussions about how to structure funds, how to structure assets, what the strategic priorities would be, and broad issues about the trajectory of the company as we approach a public company.
“In the venture partner role, you want to be part of a family, with partners and managing partners interested in what you do, and with the experience to work with you to create a successful value proposition. SV rates highly on all of these. Venture partners are absolutely regarded as part of the family, they can influence decision-making on their own and others’ programs. You don’t just sit in a silo. You become an integral part of the team.

“As an entrepreneur I’d want a firm with the capacity to make decisions about assets and strategy. SV brings that – in my current venture we’ve moved from investment to investment committee in about two weeks. Decisions happen very quickly. And then I’d want support every step of the way, filling roles, finding people with talent, locating incubator spaces, and ultimately moving on to acquirers and strategic partners. In my experience SV has all that in spades.”

– Houman Ashrafian, Biotechnology Venture Partner

Houman Ashrafian and SV Health Investors

A noted researcher, Houman Ashrafian received his BM BCh in 1999 and his DPhil in 2009, both from the University of Oxford. Following completion of his cardiology training, he was appointed consultant cardiologist at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital. He heads experimental therapeutics at Oxford. His most recent research focuses on cardiac and cancer metabolism.

But research is only part of his story – he has a strong talent for transforming novel biological insights into successful therapies and successful ventures. He is known for his commercial R&D experience and his strong track record in building and selling biotechnology companies. He co-founded Heart Metabolics with his colleague Professor Michael Frenneaux, a company that developed a metabolic approach to treating cardiomyopathy and heart failure. “We got the drug from a glint in our eye to orphan designation and FDA SPA approval,” he says,” “making mistakes along the way and learning from them.” After that he served as vice president and head of the clinical science group at UCB Pharma.

A chance encounter with Kate Bingham of SV Health Investors led to more extensive conversations about ways to collaborate. He joined SV as a venture partner in the spring of 2016.

In his role as venture partner, Houman currently serves as CEO of two portfolio companies – Ervaxx, which is developing a new cancer vaccine platform based on proprietary work by the Francis Crick Institute in London, and Sitryx, which is working to translate new metabolic insights into a novel drug pathway. Sitryx’s goal is to develop a pipeline of first-in-class small molecule drugs to treat a broad range of orphan and blockbuster indications. Houman’s role is to guide both companies through the hazards – and toward the rewards – of commercialization.