People, Venture

Fresh from the Novartis/Trump scandal, ex-CEO Joe Jimenez jumps on the board of uBiome — a biotech launching an R&D group

After figuring in as one of the central figures for one of the most talked about scandals in biopharma history, ex-Novartis CEO Joe Jimenez is stepping back out onto the stage today with a board seat at a commercial microbiome company that is now setting its sights on creating a drug development arm.

Launched 6 years ago from its base in the Bay Area, uBiome has launched a pair of consumer tests that can do at-home tests on your gut or the STDs that women face, like chlamydia and gonorrhea. Now the company has raised $83 million from venture backers — led by OS Fund — in a new drive to join the pack developing new microbiome therapies. That’s been a fast-growing field in recent times.

Jessica Richman

To do that, the company is setting up a new R&D unit on the other side of the country, in Cambridge, MA. I talked with CEO and founder Jessica Richman, who’s still playing some of her cards close to her vest — from the number of people she’s planning to have in the group to the specific programs she has in mind. 

For now, the R&D plan is ballparked in three key areas: metabolic and autoimmune diseases along with cancer, with some partnership talks in the works. 

“8VC (which led their B round) brought on Joe as an adviser,” the CEO tells me. “We just really liked him, he’s a gregarian” and “great person” who also offered some great advice on their budding commercial work. 

Normally, any company of uBiome’s size and scope could only dream about getting the ex-CEO of one of the world’s biggest pharma companies on the board.

But Jimenez? 

So what about the big Novartis scandal, where Jimenez confirmed that he signed up Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, for a $1.2 million contract? Money that went into the same pot that paid porn actress Stormy Daniels’ hush money. The one Jimenez says was a simple and short-lived consulting contract in search of a better understanding of Trump’s healthcare plans, and the one Democrats insist was a simple attempt to buy access and influence in what was not at all a short-lived connection.

“In our understanding there’s no issue there,” replies Richman. And from what he says, it was all much “different than what was portrayed in the press.”

How so? 

That, she replied, was a question best directed at Jimenez.

I will — if I ever get the chance.

Image: Joe Jimenez. UBIOME

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Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
Director of Operations
Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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