Drug developer, Big Pharma commercial exec, now an upstart biotech chief — Fabrice Chouraqui is ready to try something new as a ‘CEO-partner’ at Flagship
Fabrice Chouraqui’s career has taken some big twists along his life journey. He got his PharmD at Université Paris Descartes and jumped into the drug development game for a bit. Then he took a sharp turn and went back to school to get his MBA at Insead before returning to pharma on the commercial side.
Twenty years later, after steadily rising through the ranks and journeying the globe to nab a top job as president of US pharma for the Basel-based Novartis, Chouraqui exited in another career switch. And now he’s headed into a hybrid position as a CEO-partner at Flagship, where he’ll take a shot at leading Cellarity — one of the VC’s latest paradigm-changing companies of the groundbreaking model that aspires to deliver a new platform to the world of drug R&D.
In the latest switch-up, he’s changing a top executive position in a Swiss-based global organization supervising thousands of staffers for a role running a team of 50 engaged in deep science that marries new insights into cellular biology and AI in Cambridge, MA. And he’s committed to a dual role as venture partner, contributing his own ideas to shaping the strategy and execution at Flagship.
It’s all a bit head-spinning, but Chouraqui appears to be taking it all in stride.
It’s time, he says, to “get back to value creation … I’m someone who is passionate about progressing medical science.” And right now, he says, science has never been progressing as fast as it is now.
Flagship chief Noubar Afeyan has enjoyed bringing in ex-pharma execs, including top players at Novartis like David Epstein. They fit well into a world where the Flagship team builds platforms and companies from scratch, helped by record setting funds and a devoted group of investors.
Avak Kahvejian, Flagship general partner and founding CEO at Cellarity, says they’re trying something new with this dual role of biotech chief and VC partner. As he explains it, it’s an opportunity to bring someone in to help guide the company at an early stage, while joining the Flagship team to help sharpen the venture group’s thinking — “meaning that we’re all working together to think about strategy and vision, execute that together.”
Chouraqui has no trouble balancing strategy and vision.
“We need to think differently,” he says, pointing to the same grisly stats on development risk — with a soul-killing 90% clinical failure rate — that dominates discussions on ROI.
“Thanks to the integration of technology and biology,” says the newly-minted CEO, “we are able to operate at a new level. That level is the cell, where we can digitally map cell behavior and develop drugs that can influence cell behavior.”
Now he just needs to get into the clinic and give it a whirl — though timelines are one topic Chouraqui is steering well clear of.