The top 25: Anja König, global head, Novartis Venture Fund

Anja König is the global head of Novartis Venture Fund (NVF), the corporate venturing unit of Switzerland-based pharmaceutical company Novartis, following the retirement of Reinhard Ambros in June 2017.

Ambros had spent the 12 years as global head of NVF and was part of 2017’s Global Corporate Venturing’s Powerlist. König had, as managing director of NVF investing in Europe and Asia-Pacific, been named as part of GCV’s 2017 Rising Stars list before stepping into the top role.

In March this year, NVF reinvested in US-based genetic medicine developer Akouos’s $105m series B round that was led by life sciences investment fund Pivotal BioVenture Partners and included care provider Partners HealthCare’s Partners Innovation Fund, among others.

The fund had already participated in the company’s $50m series A round in August 2018 that included Partners Innovation Fund in addition to other venture firms.

Last year, NVF made a follow-on investment in US-based oncology therapy developer TScan Therapeutics in July 2019 in a series B round that was closed in January this year at $35m, having taken part in the $25m series A funding that had been in stealth mode.

Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research and Astellas Venture Management, pharmaceutical firm Astellas’s venture capital arm, co-led the series B round, which featured internet group Alphabet’s GV unit, 6 Dimensions Capital, the investment firm co-founded by another pharma company WuXi AppTec, as well as other investors.

Switzerland-based autoimmune disease drug developer Anokion received a $40m series B round in September 2019 from backers including NVF and Novo Ventures, a subsidiary of pharmaceutical firm Novo, after the CHF 33m ($37.4m) series A in May 2014 also featuring the same investors.

NVF’s portfolio also includes Adicet Bio, a cancer drug developer that raised a $80m series B round in September 2019 and a $51m series A round in 2016, and Renovacor, a gene therapy spinout of Temple University focused on cardiovascular disease that closed an $11m series A round in August 2019.

König has also overseen exits for Novartis in the past year. Biopharmaceutical company Jazz Pharmaceuticals acquired US-based neurological disease drug developer Cavion in August 2019 for up to $313m. Three months prior, Bicycle Therapeutics, a UK-based developer of treatments for diseases with a high unmet need, floated on the Nasdaq Global Market in a $60.7m initial public offering.

But outside of maintaining its strong investments and exit pipeline, König’s focus has been on the team and hired Michal Silverberg in November 2017, who featured on GCV’s Rising Stars roster in 2018 and 2019.

Before joining NVF in 2006, König was a US-based associate partner at management consultancy firm McKinsey for six years from 2000, where she worked with healthcare, pharmaceutical and biotech firms on both sides of the Atlantic.

König studied physics throughout her academic career – she holds a bachelor’s degree from University of Oxford, a master’s from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and a PhD from Cornell University.

König sits on the board of University of Zurich’s Life Sciences Fund, the evaluation panel of the Bridge Grant Proof of Concept scheme run by the Swiss National Science Foundation and the Swiss Commission for Technology and Innovation, the selection committee of healthcare accelerator program BaseLaunch and serves as a coach with the ETH (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich)’s Pioneer Labs program.

GCV Powerlist 2020 PDF