Todd Graham Joins with Focus on Cybersecurity and Infrastructure
For over 40 years, Venrock has been committed to diversified, early stage investing – supporting entrepreneurs who will run through walls to create new products and services, surmounting obstacles that most think impossible. The Venrock team consists of individuals with diverse backgrounds and passions, but all share a collaborative approach to investing and supporting companies with a performance driven, long-term view. Ethan Batraski, who invests in frontier tech and enterprise software, and Racquel Bracken, who invests in biotechnology and creates new companies on behalf of Venrock, reflect the firm’s unique approach. We are thrilled to announce that they have both been promoted to Partner.
Ethan joined Venrock’s technology team in 2017, after 15 years as
a product executive, founder, and angel investor, with leadership positions at
Facebook, Box, and Yahoo!. Since joining Venrock, Ethan has led our investments
across space, autonomy, and frontier technologies, including Skyryse, an
autonomy company focused on VTOL aircraft, Atom Computing, a neutral atoms
based quantum computing company, as well as three additional companies that
have not been publicly announced. He also holds 16 patents. Ethan is a
passionate early adopter, space geek, and competitive athlete.
Racquel has been a member of Venrock’s healthcare investment team
since 2016. She led the Series B round for Cyteir, an oncology start-up focused
on DNA damage repair, as well as the formation and seed funding of Federation
Bio, a microbial cell therapy company for intractable disease. Since its
founding, she has also served as the CEO of Federation Bio in addition to her
Venrock investment activities. Prior to Venrock, Racquel was one of the first employees
at Clovis Oncology and helped the company from inception through approval of its
first product, with responsibilities in business development and
commercialization over 7 years. Racquel is an avid outdoorswoman, backcountry
skier, mountain biker, and board game lover.
We are also happy to welcome Todd Graham to the technology team as a Vice President in Palo Alto. Building on Venrock’s history in the security and infrastructure space – including CloudFlare, Shape Security and CheckPoint Software –Todd is excited about the future of digital transformation, human-based cyber-threats, disruptive go-to-market, and the consumerization of the enterprise experience. Todd joins Venrock from Cisco, where he led corporate strategy for the security and collaboration businesses. Todd was also an early employee at Tablus, a Data Loss Prevention company that was acquired by EMC’s security division, RSA.
We are honored to recognize Racquel, Ethan
and Todd’s accomplishments and look forward to their continued partnership and
future successes, joining forces with early stage leaders to build substantial,
durable businesses that improve lives across the globe.
As an investor, I use three heuristics to evaluate healthcare startups.
Will the product or
Improve dramatically a patient’s experience of care?
Materially reduce the per patient cost of healthcare?
Deliver meaningful health improvements for patients?
This is no secret — the triple aim has been
around for a while. At Venrock, we often see companies that meet one or two of
these aims, but rarely do we see all three meaningfully achieved at the same
Virta Health is one
of those rare companies, and it has been an incredible privilege helping their
team grow and work towards a world where type 2 diabetes (T2D) reversal is a
treatment accessible to everyone living with this chronic disease that may not
have to be chronic anymore. With their two-year results peer-reviewed and
published in Frontiers in Endocrinology, Virta is showing
that even patients who have lived with T2D for years can improve their health
beyond their wildest imagination and safely get off of expensive medications.
Improving the Experience
One of the biggest challenges in treating T2D is that the traditional model of healthcare is at odds with the reality of living with a chronic disease. It is by definition a condition that patients live with day to day, but patients only see their physician once or twice a year.
Virta is so effective
because their clinicians engage with patients every day. This gives them
massively more data to inform clinical decisions and many feedback loops to
help patients and clinicians figure out what works. Also, Virta’s clinical team
is super specialized, unlike most endocrinologists who treat many different
diseases, and solely focused on providing medical care for T2D based off of the
daily data coming from patients.
As a result, being a
Virta patient is a drastically different experience. Not only does the
treatment result in significantly better outcomes, but the care also teaches
patients about their physiology and how to proactively manage their metabolism.
This gives patients unparalleled peace of mind and confidence.
Reducing Health Care
Costs for Type 2 Diabetes
T2D is expensive. The
long-term complications of heart attacks, kidney failure, and vascular disease
are budget busting for patients and health insurers.
Beyond these increased
health risks, certain classes of diabetes-specific medications are startlingly high
cost as well. The cost of insulin has recently been in the news for its skyrocketing price over the last 15 years. Insulin is not only
expensive, but it also engenders risks for hypoglycemia and weight gain. This
is a point that is often overlooked by providers who are conditioned to cajole
patients at every visit to carefully titrate insulin: prescription medications
often have side effects that alleviate a set of symptoms at the expense of
For example, SGLT2 Inhibitors, a newer class of oral medications for T2D, have a bunch of side effects like kidney failure, hypotension, increased cholesterol levels, and increased risk of developing bladder cancer. It would be far better and more cost effective if we manage T2D without relying on these medications. With Virta, patients lower their glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) and eliminate medications at the same time.
Amazingly, Virta trial
patients were able to discontinue 67 percent of their starting
diabetes-specific prescriptions at two years. In addition, 91 percent of
patients who began on insulin were able to reduce or eliminate their dosage,
and the average daily dosage of insulin for this group of patients went from
81.9 to 15.5 units per day. The average annual medication costs for this group
of patients on insulin dropped by more than 50 percent between baseline and two
Health Improvements for Patients
When Virta’s 10 week
results published in JMIR Diabetes, I wrote about the
rapid improvements demonstrated by patients who opted into the treatment. Ninety
percent of patients who began the trial taking insulin were able to reduce or
eliminate their dosage and 48 percent of patients met the definition for
conversations with trial patients made us confident that they would be able to
stick with the treatment, it still needed to be proven that Virta could succeed
at demonstrating long-term therapeutic benefit.
With one-year results
published in Diabetes Therapyand now two-year results in Frontiers in Endocrinology, Virta proves that their initial results are lasting. The
vast majority of patients stick with it, and Virta is consistently able to
deliver long-term, clinically significant improvements in health outcomes
related to T2D, avert complications, and save thousands of dollars per patient.
Specifically, of patients who completed two years 55 percent were able to reduce their HbA1c below 6.5 percent (the threshold for T2D diagnosis) without diabetes-specific medications, and 34 percent within that subset of patients were able to achieve partial or complete diabetes remission.
With standard T2D care,
the rate of partial remission
is approximately 2.4 percent, and it is known that patients who have
had T2D longer are less likely to achieve remission. Virta crushes this metric
even with a harder to treat population. At the start of the trial, Virta
patients had lived 8.4 years on average with a T2D diagnosis. Given this
context, the fact that such a substantial percentage of patients were able to
put their disease in remission is remarkable.
In addition to T2D,
Virta patients demonstrated significant improvement in markers of related to
other chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease risk factors as well
as markers of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Virta’s treatment is improving
metabolic health and the benefits of it are being felt by multiple systems in
What Virta has been able
to achieve for patients, payers, and providers is extraordinary. Virta
is giving hope and better health to thousands of patients with T2D. The Virta treatment is
scalable, safe, effective and totally personalized for all types of patients
and lifestyles. Having doctors, diabetes educators, social workers, dieticians and
coaches work with patients daily works much better than the once or twice a
year status quo. Our team could not be more excited to work with Virta, and we
look forward to continuing to help them improve the lives of patients for years
To read more about Virta’s recent two-year results, see remarks from Sami Inkininen, Co-Founder and CEO of Virta, here.
Venrock has a legacy of investing in innovative and disruptive companies, but we are always thinking of the future. Forbes takes an in-depth look at our business, our portfolio and our people in this story about reinvention. Forbes speaks with our investors and portfolio company CEOs to weave a story about our rich past, current successes, and bright future.
Venrock has partnered with VentureBeat to present the first ever Venrock “Health IT Disruptor Award” at the HealthBeat Early Stage Innovation Showdown. The winner of the award will receive a $250,000 convertible note, dinner with Venrock partners and our portfolio company CEOs, 6 months of office space in The Quarry, our incubator space, and many other prizes. Applications for interested companies are available on the VentureBeat website. Read more about the competition here.
Wondering what’s been going on at Venrock? 2012 has been a remarkable year, with many exciting portfolio developments. You can catch up with the latest happening at at the firm in the 2012 Venrock Newsletter. Check it out for highlights from the past year, including a brief Q&A with Dollar Shave Club founder, Mike Dubin.
It is no surprise that American universities foster entrepreneurial spirit and talent. The University Entrepreneurship Project recently did a study that tracked investments in student-run startups over the last five years across six universities. Overall, Venrock is the leader in investments in student entrepreneurs, with an astounding 31 deals made over the course of the study. Venrock is excited to continue working with the next generation of innovators! Read more about the study on PE Hub.
We’re all looking for the next great investment. What does it take to make it big? The Wall Street Journal published it’s “Next Big Thing 2012” list today, ranking the top 50 U.S. companies backed by venture capital. Congratulations to all the companies who made the list, including Venrock portfolio companies Genband (#1), Appia (#22) , Achaogen (#35), Quantenna (#36), Acceleron (#48) and Neoconix (#50). Read more about the underlying investment strategies on the Wall Street Journal.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) does not get much spotlight, but an estimated 15.3 million people suffer from it’s effects. In fact, you’re probably close to someone who has IBS. Today Ironwood Pharmaceuticals reached a huge milestone and received FDA approval for their drug to treat IBS-C, named Linzess. Forbes has the latest on this story. Congratulations to the Ironwood team and Venrock’s Bryan Roberts!
A big congratulations to Bryan Roberts (#38), Ray Rothrock (#49) and Brian Ascher (#67) for making the 2012 Forbes Midas List. Bryan Roberts, “the dean of healthcare IT,” was also featured in an accompanying story, The VCs Who Are Investing In Health IT.
Ariosa Diagnostics has partnered with LapCorp to make the Harmony™ Prenatal Test available in the United States and Canada. Ariosa is bringing an affordable and non-invasive prenatal testing option to pregnant women and their physicians. The company launched earlier this year and it’s test will become widely available in June.