Kasim Kutay, CEO of Novo Holdings, is one of the leading corporate venturing professionals in our 2024 Powerlist.

As CEO of the Danish life sciences investment and holding company Novo Holdings, Kasim Kutay has overseen strong growth in its venture unit, despite the challenging investment environment.

The venture investments team deployedDKK3.6bn ($530m) in 2023. Last year, it added 18 investments to its ventures portfolio, including 14 companies and four investment vehicles. New portfolio companies include US biopharma company 4D Molecular, Swiss biotech company Alentis Therapeutics and US drug discovery firm Terremoto Biosciences.

“Companies that we had been looking at for a while reached valuation levels that became very attractive to invest. We have taken advantage of the opportunities that the downturn has created. We are very excited about the returns we are going to generate from our 2022 and 2023 ventures,” says Kutay, who has headed Novo Holdings since 2016.

The venture team invests from Novo Holdings’ US offices in San Francisco and Boston, as well as in London and Copenhagen, where Novo Holdings is headquartered.

Novo Holdings also has an early-stage investment team – Seed Investments – which raised $460m in 2023 and had 36 portfolio companies by year-end. Recent seed investments include: Hemab Therapeutics, a maker of therapeutics for bleeding and thrombotic disorders; Acesion Pharma, a developer of drugs to treat atrial fibrillation; and Commit Biologics, a developer of a technology platform to create immunotherapy treatments for cancers.

“Companies that we had been looking at for a while reached valuation levels that became very attractive to invest. We are very excited about the returns we are going to generate from our 2022 and 2023 ventures.”

In 2023, the Seed Investments unit established its own incubator laboratory in Denmark. Most of the seed investment portfolio consists of private investments valued 41% higher than at the end of 2022.

Kutay says the group’s long-term investment outlook means the group could also take advantage of the tougher funding environment to make investments in companies it had its eye on for a while.

“We are in a golden era of innovation,” says Kutay. “If you look at how far we have come with the number of FDA approvals over the past few years, versus where we were eight to nine years ago, we are in an era of incredible therapeutics and diagnostics innovation.”

Kutay describes Novo Holdings as aclassic financially driven venture investor without any strategic interests. It invests broadly in life sciences and biotech ventures to generate as much return as possible for its owner, Novo Nordisk Foundation, an enterprise foundation that supports a range of projects and initiatives that aim to benefit people’s lives, society and the planet.

In addition, Novo Holdings manages abroad portfolio of equities, bonds, real estate, infrastructure and private equity assets.

The holding company receives dividends from the Novo Group companies Novonesis (formerly known as Novozymes) and NovoNordisk, the latter being the pharmaceutical company whose profits have soared from the commercial success of its obesity treatment Wegovy. These dividends, in addition to portfolio returns, has led the venture team to look beyond biotech investments. More recently, it focused on broadening into medtech venture investments.

“Given the amount of funds we need to invest and put to work, from the growth and dividends of the Novo Group, and the big portfolio returns that the portfolio is generating, a natural area of expansion is medtech, where we have historically done well,” says Kutay.

Among its recent medtech investments is its lead in a $65m series E financing round in January 2024 in Nalu Medical, a US medical technology company developing and commercialising minimally invasive solutions for patients with chronic neuropathic pain.

Kutay comes from an investment banking background. He was managing director and chairman of the European healthcare group at Morgan Stanley between 1989 and 2007. He was also partner and co-head of Europe for Moelis & Company, an investment bank focused on mergers and acquisitions and restructurings, between 2009 and 2016.

He also spent nine years as a trustee and committee member of SOAS University of London, where he oversaw the university’s endowment.

Powerlist cover

The Global Corporate Venturing Powerlist represents the 100
individuals spearheading the future of the corporate venturing industry.

These individuals excel in terms of their venturing approach and structure, number and quality of portfolio companies and in their contributions to the corporate venturing profession.

See the full 2024 Powerlist here.