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Kreos Insights

Interview: Antoine Papiernik, Managing Partner at Sofinova Partners

By 21/04/2016June 4th, 2021No Comments

Antoine Papiernik has over 20 years of investment experience, and is a Managing Partner at Sofinnova Partners. Antoine joined Sofinnova in 1997 and is responsible for investments in both biopharmaceuticals and medical devices. Antoine was previously with CDC-Innovation. He has been an investor and active board member in many pan-European public companies including Actelion, Auris, ProQR, NovusPharma (sold to CTI), Movetis (sold to Shire), Mainstay, Pixium Vision and Stentys. He has also invested in and is a board member of private companies ReCor, MD Start, Shockwave Medical, Reflexion Medical, ProQR and Gecko Biomedical.

Antoine has an MBA from the Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania. In 2011 and 2012, Antoine was selected by Forbes for its “Midas List” of the world’s top high-tech and life science investors. Antoine is one of the only Europeans on the list, and one of the few life science investors as well.


Antoine, your firm is one of the key European players in life sciences. Can you describe Sofinnova’s strategy in the market place?

Sofinnova Partners is 100% focused on investing in life science companies, with about two thirds of our companies originating in Europe, and the other third in North America, principally in the US. We today have €1.5bn under management. Our main funds are focused on early stage healthcare investments, and we recently raised our last vehicle, Sofinnova Capital VIII, which closed at its cap at €300m last December.

We are also active in another segment of life sciences, namely Industrial Biotech, with one fund actively investing in the field and another vehicle currently in fundraising. On the healthcare front, our strategy has not changed an iota for decades, and consists in backing from the start visionary entrepreneurs with a paradigm-shifting technology or product.

Our strategy centres on what we call “large stakes / large returns” Рowning and keeping a large percentage ownership of our portfolio companies until the end.


Can you give us a sense of Sofinnova’s history and track record?

Sofinnova is actually one of the oldest  groups in the world! The original firm was created in 1972 in Paris by a visionary guy who had witnessed the emergence of players in the US investing in innovations, like Georges Doriot, a French born investor who founded ARDC and was the main backer behind DEC.

Sofinnova is actually an acronym for “company investing in innovation”, so it was all in the name. Jean Deléage was responsible for our early experiences in life science investments, with major wins such as Genentech, Chiron and Biogen. The legend says that we said no twice to Amgen, for good reasons at the time. I guess you cannot do them all! The contemporary history actually started close to 20 years ago, in ‘97, when the team organised a buy-out of Sofinnova from its original forefathers.

This is also when I joined the firm, by the way. Sofinnova’s subsidiary in the US participated in this buy-out, and we now have two firms on both sides of the Atlantic, Sofinnova Partners in Paris, whom I represent here, and our cousins Sofinnova Ventures, based in the Bay area. We are totally independent of each other, but we consider them as family, and often work with them. As far as our strategy is concerned, we were born with a hybrid investment model, investing in both life sciences and IT. Contrary to the rest of the world, we decided over the last 20 years to concentrate gradually on life sciences, the field in which we had the strongest track record. About six or seven years ago, we decided to be 100% life science focused, and the last two funds have been pure-play life sciences funds. Contrary to many of our peers, we have stuck to our original model of backing companies with a vision from the very start, and we have been particularly fortunate in the last decade, with many of our companies maturing nicely to become strong leaders in their field, going public or being sold to large corporate buyers. In the last five years alone, our companies generated more than €6bn of equity value. Thanks to our “large stakes / large returns” strategy, a very significant part of that value translated into performance for the Sofinnova funds.


Can you tell us a few examples of companies you are particularly proud of?

One of the wonderful things in our business is to be able to make money for our investors while financing companies who bring life saving drugs or devices to market. In my own experience, over the past 20 years, some of the best examples are companies like Actelion, Corevalve or Ethical Oncology Science. Actelion revolutionised the treatment of pulmonary hypertension, a lethal disease affecting  young women, with their drug Tracleer; it is now a $15bn company with several billions in sales. Corevalve (since sold to Medtronic), transformed the treatment of aortic valve stenosis with their percutaneous valve, and their product has now saved the lives of more than fifty thousand people who otherwise had a six month life expectancy. EOS (since sold to Clovis Oncology), is developing Lucitinib for the treatment of breast and lung cancers.


Can you tell us about what sort of companies you are investing in?

We start investing at series A, where there is an awful lot you don’t know about the future, and continue investing with the company through its lifecycle. This forces us to concentrate on things that will really make a difference if the plan pans out Рwhat we would describe as “paradigm-shifting” technologies Рand on people we feel have the entrepreneurial vision and drive to get the company to where it needs to go.  This is still a large span of businesses, and you will see us invest in new platform technologies based on ground-breaking science on the one end, to spin-offs from pharma on the other end, with an ambitious clinical plan to bring a product to market in short order.


How would you describe the team at Sofinnova Partners?

We are small team with a total of 25 people based in Paris, and a great mix of experience and diversity. We are one of the few firms out there with  gender parity at the partner level. We are also proud to have over eight nationalities in this small group, with twelve languages spoken, from French to Chinese, Danish to English, Croatian to Korean, Spanish to Dutch. To us, this mix makes us better aligned with our pan-European strategy.


What is your outlook for Life Science companies in Europe?

The European life science scene has made immense progress in the last 20 years. You can judge that in a pretty effective manner by the number of companies that went public on European exchanges or were sold to corporate buyers in this period.

Of course, when one compares this to the situation in the US, one can still say that we have a long way to go. The total market capitalisation of the whole European biotech sector is worth just one of the many mid-size NASDAQ listed biotech companies in the US. But Europe started 20 years after the US, and I would argue that the life science market in Europe has now reached a point of maturity, and from this point onwards will generate many new great success stories and returns in the years to come.