Q&A with Beth Seidenberg of KPCB

What inspired you to go to medical school?
My grandfather and father were both physicians.  Their passion for their work and for making a difference in people’s lives was palpable in our home.  I wanted to carry-on the family tradition.

What led you to biotechnology and ultimately investing?
The AIDS crisis in the 1980’s changed my career.  During medical school and training I was devastated by the number of young, previously healthy people dying of this unknown illness at that time. This compelled me to work on treatments for AIDS which I did during my training at NIH.  This work led me to Merck & co. where I had the privilege to work on many innovative therapies.  Investing allows me to utilize my operating skills and help entrepreneurs build great companies.

What were the most critical things you learned working at Amgen?
Surround yourself with the best people who complement your skill set; focus on innovation; communicate clearly and often.

What lessons or principles can you bring from biotech and apply to digital health?
The healthcare system in the US needs to be modernized with innovative technology.  In the 1980’s when I started in biotech, drug discovery was going through a significant innovation cycle built around new technology.  The learning about where to focus and how to identify value translates well into digital health.  In addition, by virtue of my biotech experience I have a broad global view of the healthcare system.  I have worked across the world and have seen more modern IT infrastructure successfully applied to healthcare delivery compared to the US.  I hope to bring this knowledge to entrepreneur’s building digital health companies.

What advice do you have for aspiring healthcare entrepreneurs?
Focus on areas of real unmet need; don’t lose site of the mission to help patients; have passion and relentless focus.

What are the most critical issues you see in FDA reform?
Consistency across different FDA divisions and reviewers; predictability and transparency.  Implementation of the FDA Safety and Innovation Act (FDASIA) provides a great opportunity to make this happen.  In addition to FDA, I believe that we should support Commissioner Hamburg’s priority to launch a national strategy for medical innovation.

Dr. Beth Seidenberg is a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers focused on life science investing. She works with entrepreneurs to develop companies with breakthrough technology for treating patients and improving health. Before joining KPCB, Beth was senior vice president of development and chief medical officer of Amgen, Inc. Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers is a Rock Health partner.