We have been working with Mark for over a year as a Board Member and are thrilled to share that he’s now working with us day-to-day. Mark has over three decades of industry experience, having been at the center of many transformational biotech efforts, most recently as founding CSO and Board Member of Dewpoint Therapeutics. He’s working closely with our team to scale Octant to our next growth phase and further develop our chemistry platform. Here is a Q&A we did with Mark about his work with us.
What attracted you to Octant? How did you get involved with the company?
A little over two years ago I was introduced to Octant through A16Z’s Vijay Pande and Jorge Conde. I’ve known Vijay and Jorge for years and respect what they are doing in the industry, so I was interested to learn more and was glad to be connected with Sri and Ramsey. I was immediately impressed by the cofounders’ strong partnership. Sri has a unique scientific talent with a clear vision of the future of Octant and Ramsey has outstanding company-building and operational skills. After some more discussions, I was delighted to have the chance to join the Board. I felt invested in the company right away and quickly began advising the two on how to push their vision forward.
Octant’s vision for generating massive amounts of multiplexed cellular and biochemical data excites me. The company is clearly applicable to many important challenges in the drug discovery space, including understanding how GPCR drugs actually work.
What is your involvement with the company and how is it evolving?
Building product-focused biotech is hard work. It’s not that difficult to think up some good ideas; the challenges come with turning those ideas into breakthrough medicines - there are strategic, execution, and cultural issues that must be addressed. My advisory role helps Octant address these challenges. I get plugged into all the project teams, get to know the scientists and identify areas where I can help with their work, and help Sri and Ramsey choose strategic paths forward for the platform.
What makes Octant unique?
The platform is a powerful blend of drug-focused synthetic biology, massively multiplexed biology, nanoscale high-throughput chemistry, and advanced computation. And, the team behind it is super-smart and dynamic, with an unusually broad set of skills and experiences. Together, the platform and people make Octant a unique player in the biotech space with enormous potential to create breakthrough medicines.
How will your past experience help achieve the vision of the company?
At Octant I am focused on helping develop their company culture and helping the team fully understand the complexities around drug discovery. I feel my experience falls within the sweet spot Octant needs to help them succeed - I was a founding scientist at Vertex and during a 21 year tenure helped it evolve into a fully-integrated drug company; I am a co-founder & Board member of Relay Therapeutics; I was the founding CSO & currently an advisor and Board member of Dewpoint Therapeutics; and have helped to build a dozen other biotechs. I’ve also been fortunate to have contributed to nine approved medicines over my career.
As the saying goes, “The new needs friends.” Breakthrough science requires time, brilliant scientists, great execution, a crisp focus on important problems, resources, and a little luck. Helping Octant to achieve its vision is an exciting opportunity.