Cheryl Zimberlin, director at M Ventures, is one of our 50 emerging leaders in corporate venturing in 2023.

Cheryl Zimberlin successfully made the leap from academia into corporate venturing seven years ago and was recently promoted to investment director at M Ventures, the investment arm of biopharmaceutical company Merck.

Zimberlin pursued a master’s in biotechnology and a PhD in oncology and cancer biology at the Academic Medical Center in the Netherlands. While working in academia she developed an interest in startups and got an internship at M Ventures which turned into a permanent analyst position at the venture unit.

She was promoted to investment director at the beginning of 2022 and now leads deals, sits on boards and manages a portfolio. Several of her investments have been spinouts from academic institutions where M Ventures has supported companies in stealth mode before they raised financing.

“All CVCs operate very differently from each other and that means a lot of people get very confused.”

Her focus this year will be on the next generation of protein modulators and technologies that use proteins to normalise balance in cells.

M Ventures’ fund increased by €600m at the end of 2021. The additional capital, the third fund increase since its creation in 2009, is designed to be deployed over five years. Zimberlin sees a lot of investment opportunities and has noticed financing rounds are opening up more to corporate investors. The fund mostly focuses on early-stage investments but has broadened its mandate to look more at clinical stage biotech startups now that valuations have decreased.

Zimberlin finds there are a lot of misconceptions about the CVC sector. “All CVCs operate very differently from each other and that means a lot of people get very confused,” she says. She spends a lot of time explaining the CVC’s policies to the broader community and feels more education is needed on the role that corporate venturers play.

Over the next few years she hopes to see the portfolio companies she recently invested in grow. Last year she invested in biotech startups Rewind Therapeutics, Multitude Therpaeutics and Scipio Biosciences.   

See the rest of our Top Emerging Leaders for 2023 here.

Kim Moore

Kim Moore is the deputy editor of Global Venturing and produces video for the website.