Mohan S. Iyer is the newest general partner at SOSV, focused on the IndieBio SF program with fellow SOSV general partners Po Bronson and Pae Wu.
Prior to joining IndieBio in 2021, Mohan was the COO of Pendulum Therapeutics working on probiotics for metabolic health to help people with type 2 diabetes to manage A1C, naturally. He was also Chief Business Officer at Second Genome, the first venture-backed microbiome genomics company, and CFO of Tethys Bioscience, which developed the first commercial test to predict those at highest risk of converting to type 2 diabetes.
Mohan holds an MBA from Yale, and degrees in Biomedical Engineering from Duke (M.S.) and Chemical Engineering from the University of Tennessee (B.S.).
Here are a few questions for Mohan:
You started out as a biochemical engineer at Genentech, the mecca of biotech, before getting an MBA at Yale, then had various C-level roles in life science companies before focusing on -omics and a longer stint in microbiome. What made you take this path?
Genentech, in the mid-80s, gave me an amazing opportunity to experience first hand how a key insight from molecular biology can disrupt entrenched industries and positively impact human health. My entire career has been focused on chasing and expanding this vision. Each of the startups I worked with were based on a specific molecular biology insight with the potential to transform medicine and health. The technology platform was different in each case, whether genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, metabolomics or microbiomics. The product and business models varied too, whether a novel molecular diagnostic, a new small or large molecule drug, or even a direct-to-consumer novel medical food. The thread that ties it all together is the drive toward translating disruptive biology into healthcare products that people really need.
How did you connect with IndieBio and what made it catch your attention?
The last 25-30 years of biotech is just the preamble of how synbio will impact many sectors. It will help switch from petroleum-based and animal-based GHG-intensive products – from meat to packaging or cosmetics. Human health will transform too, and I realized that contributing my experience to founding and launching dozens of startups in that space would be very fulfilling, while also making an innovation-driven impact on the climate crisis.
I joined the intrepid team here focused on scaling up the venture capital industry to launch dozens of life science companies a year, each hoping for a singular impact on human and planetary health.
I had mentored a few IndieBio companies in the past and I called Po Bronson to discuss how I could increase my involvement. Here’s some advice: If you are not ready to shake up your life, you really should not call Po. I quickly found myself in the basement on Jessie Street hanging out with IndieBio’s amazing startup founders, and I knew I had arrived: I joined the intrepid team here focused on scaling up the venture capital industry to launch dozens of life science companies a year, each hoping for a singular impact on human and planetary health.
You’ve been working with IndieBio startups for a year — what are the most common knowledge or experience gaps you can help them fill?
Many IndieBio founders are first-timers. My broad and deep operational experience helping to scale half a dozen startups brings them practical advice on how to articulate, structure and execute against their north star goals. Rolling up my sleeves alongside these amazing change agents is a great privilege.
What biotech sectors are you most motivated to work on?
A key ingredient to my personal happiness is continuous learning; so I am fairly agnostic about the sectors and very apt to plunge into new areas. Here at IndieBio, my inner biochemical engineer is like a kid in a candy store. There are so many blue-sky challenges to work on and overcome, they remind me of my first job at Genentech scaling up the manufacturing process for biotech’s very first products. Of course, based on my history and pattern of behavior over the last 30 years, I am intrinsically drawn to a company story where there is a stunning insight from biology with revolutionary possibilities.
Last, what’s your secret hobby?
Well, it’s not much of a secret. On a weekend afternoon, after a couple of sets of tennis, you will find me picking a new tune on my ukulele.