Tal Zaks

Tal Zak­s' post-Mod­er­na fu­ture is now in view as he joins biotech VC blue-chip­per Or­biMed

It’s hard to imag­ine what comes next for a physi­cian-sci­en­tist who’s de­vel­oped one of the most lu­cra­tive vac­cines in bio­phar­ma his­to­ry. On Mon­day — a month af­ter leav­ing his post at Mod­er­na — Tal Zaks cleared up some of the mys­tery, an­nounc­ing a new gig at a lead­ing start­up en­gine.

Sheila Gu­jrathi

Zaks is join­ing Or­biMed along with Sheila Gu­jrathi, for­mer CEO and co-founder of Gos­samer Bio. They’ll be tak­ing ven­ture part­ner and ven­ture ad­vi­sor roles, re­spec­tive­ly, to help find and fund the next break­throughs in drug de­vel­op­ment.

“We are ex­cit­ed to wel­come Tal and Sheila to the Or­biMed team,” man­ag­ing part­ner and head of pri­vate eq­ui­ty Carl Gor­don said in a state­ment. “We are con­fi­dent they will make trans­for­ma­tive con­tri­bu­tions to the growth and suc­cess of Or­biMed’s ven­ture cap­i­tal in­vest­ments.”

The new role is one of a few that Zaks has lined up to fill his post-Mod­er­na ca­reer, in­clud­ing spots on Te­va’s board of di­rec­tors and AI-fo­cused Deep Ge­nomics’ sci­en­tif­ic ad­vi­so­ry board.

Zaks joined Mod­er­na in 2015, back when it was still a small, pre­clin­i­cal biotech with lofty goals to turn pa­tients’ own bod­ies in­to drug fac­to­ries us­ing mR­NA. Six years and a block­buster vac­cine lat­er, Mod­er­na qui­et­ly re­vealed that the for­mer CMO was step­ping down to pur­sue the “next leg” of his ca­reer.

“Through his lead­er­ship over the past year in Mod­er­na’s re­sponse to the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic, Tal has made a con­tri­bu­tion that ex­tends be­yond Mod­er­na to all of so­ci­ety,” CEO Stéphane Ban­cel had said at the time.

He al­so left a much rich­er man, hav­ing cashed in on the com­pa­ny’s sky­rock­et­ing stock price. Zaks pock­et­ed at least $50 mil­lion from pre-sched­uled stock sales through­out the pan­dem­ic — a move that earned him some out­side crit­i­cism.

Be­fore Mod­er­na, Zaks spent five years at the top of Sanofi’s on­col­o­gy di­vi­sion, and four years as Glax­o­SmithK­line’s di­rec­tor of clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment.

Gu­jrathi is adding the Or­biMed gig to a list of board roles, in­clud­ing her re­cent­ly an­nounced po­si­tion as Ven­tyx’s new ex­ec­u­tive chair.

The North­west­ern Uni­ver­si­ty grad co-found­ed Gos­samer Bio back in 2017, and took the helm in 2018 in con­nec­tion with a hefty $230 mil­lion Se­ries B round. She saw the com­pa­ny through an IPO a year lat­er, then left in 2020 on the heels of a hard fail­ure for its lead pro­gram. Be­fore that, she was CMO at Re­cep­tos, which was snapped up by Cel­gene in 2015 for $7.2 bil­lion.

Ear­li­er this year, Or­biMed pulled in $3.5 bil­lion across three pri­vate in­vest­ment funds. The heavy­weight in­vestor par­tic­i­pat­ed in the most fund­ing rounds in the in­dus­try back in 2019, con­tribut­ing to ear­ly-stage or crossover rounds for 20 dif­fer­ent com­pa­nies, good for an es­ti­mat­ed $320.2 mil­lion com­bined.

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