Lindsay Androski is President and CEO of Roivant Social Ventures, a social impact investor and incubator focused on expanding healthcare access and improving health outcomes. In 2016, Ms. Androski joined the founding team at Roivant Sciences, where she built and led the deal team that successfully in-licensed or acquired 35 clinical-stage drug programs, and launched 16 subsidiary biotechs during her tenure, resulting in five new approved drugs to date.
John Shegerian: Get the latest impact episodes right now in your inbox each week. Subscribe by entering your email at impactpodcast.com to make sure you never miss an interview.
John: This edition of The Impact Podcast is brought to you by ERI. ERI has a mission to protect people, the planet, and your privacy, and is the largest fully integrated IT and electronics asset disposition provider and cybersecurity-focused hardware destruction company in the United States and maybe even the world. For more information on how ERI can help your business properly dispose of outdated electronic hardware devices, please visit eridirect.com.
John: Welcome to another edition of The Impact Podcast. I’m John Shegerian and this is a very special edition of the Impact Podcast. We’ve got Lindsay Androski with us. Welcome to the Impact, Lindsay.
Lindsay Androski: Thank you, John.
John: I know you’re in San Diego today and I’m in Fresno, but you’re on the road. You don’t live in San Diego, but you’re on a business trip. I want to talk a little bit before we get going, talking about all the great things you’re doing at Roivant Social Ventures, Lindsay. How did you even get to this position, you have a fascinating background. Where’d you grow up and what was your classic education before you founded Roivant Social Ventures?
Lindsay: Yeah. I had an unusual path. That’s usually how I start when people ask me about it.
John: Fair enough.
Lindsay: If you go back to the very beginning, I grew up in Duluth-Superior, the Twin Ports of Northern Minnesota, Northern Wisconsin, right on Lake Superior. I was the first person in my family to go to college. My dad works on the railroad to this day. My mom actually worked at Target and had a long career there. How did I find MIT? That was actually because I knew from a young age that I wanted to go somewhere pretty intense. I was always really nerdy and that was not common in the area where I grew up. I wanted to find my people…
John: You are straight A’s, valedictorian.
Lindsay: Totally, yeah. Since the day…
John: The highest sense of Peace Corps.
John: Oh my God.
Lindsay: Yeah, that was me, which made me super weird because public schools are big classes and a lot of kids who live in rural areas and a lot of blue-collar workers. I was an anomaly for sure but somehow I knew my people were out there. I was trying to find them for college. I ended up going to Boston for Harvard Model UN because my school had that club and we did that. I toured MIT at that time because one of my classmates and someone on the Harvard Model UN team really wanted to tour MIT and asked me to go with him and so I did. I thought I love this place. This place is for me. I applied and I was lucky enough to get in. Now, I could never get in today, the acceptance rate is 4%. It’s so crazy because I sit on the board of trustees there now, so I get to see all this stuff.
John: What was it when you got in? You still had to be a…
Lindsay: It was 25%.
John: Oh, wow. Wait a second.
Lindsay: Much higher.
John: When you went there, what were you thinking of studying?
John: What was your work-study?
Lindsay: There’s an interesting piece of background there. Also, in high school, I did Model UN. Sorry, Mock Trial. Our mock trial was super competitive. We won states almost every year. My year we came in second in the nation, which is weird for a little I guess a big public school in the middle of nowhere. But we were very good and I found that to be both amazing and extremely stressful. I remember before we went into court, I had a pit in my stomach and I felt so nervous I thought, I can never do this for a living, this is way too stressful for me. Then I had settled on, I wanted to help cure diseases. That was my loose goal when I went to college. I thought maybe I’ll do an MD and a Ph.D. and I could help advance research. One great thing about MIT is it’s very easy for undergraduates to get jobs in labs. I got a job in a research lab and I hated it.
Lindsay: I thought, this is way too boring. I do not have the right personality for this at all. Maybe I should be a trial lawyer after all.
John: It’s great that you learned what you hated up that early, that young, right? That’s…
Lindsay: Totally, I have a 10th-grade daughter. This is amazing. She got the chance to go to a neurology camp program at Georgetown this summer. She had the same realization. She was super interested in neurology, but she came back and said, I don’t think I want to do the lab work part. She got that opportunity even younger than I did.
John: Do you think in terms of neurology is her aspiration than to become a neurologist?
Lindsay: Maybe. But now she’s thinking neuropsychology or neuropsychiatry because she likes the intersection of the brain, and people’s behavior too.
John: The greatest podcast, I’m sure you already know this, but I’m just going to share this with you. My favorite podcaster on that topic is Andrew Huberman.
Lindsay: I don’t know him.
John: Literally, he is a neuroscientist and he also got either a master’s or a Ph.D. in ophthalmology as well. He’s one of the most revered neuroscientists in the world right now. I bet your daughter would totally nerd out and love his podcast. He just launched it about a year ago. It’s already one of the top five podcasts in the world. It’s fast.
John: Anyway, just a little…
Lindsay: We will check it out.
John: … side. How many children do you have?
Lindsay: I have five children. Yeah, I didn’t tell you that beforehand.
John: Oh my gosh. You’re a single mom, a professional mom.
Lindsay: Yeah. Now, I am.
John: Oh my gosh. What the age range is on five?
Lindsay: Two in high school. One in middle school. Two are in elementary school right now.
John: Where are you got…?
John: How do you do this? What vitamins do you take in the morning? You’re going to be fantastic.
Lindsay: Yeah. I just do lots of self-care. Lots of sleep.
John: That’s great.
Lindsay: Whenever I can do it.
John: That’s awesome. All right. You’re an MIT and then you decide no lab for you, you’re going to become a trial lawyer.
Lindsay: Yeah. But recognizing that I really had no sophisticated world experience at that time, I didn’t grow up in New York or LA.
John: Mom and Dad were lawyers or had no role background.
John: Okay, got it.
Lindsay: Yeah, almost everyone at that time was becoming either a banker or a consultant. I chose the consulting route. I did that for three years. That was great exposure because it was a strategy firm that had spun out in McKinsey called Mitchell Madison Group.
Lindsay: I was embedded with Fortune 100 companies for various projects and got to see the world and got to learn about different industries and it was a really good experience. I applied to the JD MBA program at the University of Chicago. I went there knowing that I was likely to practice law as the first step out of there.
John: Wow. Good for you.
John: After you got out of the JD MBA program, what was your first job out of there?
Lindsay: Clerkship. It’s pretty common out in law school to work for a judge for one or two years as their assistant. You’ll prep them for the cases, and draft the opinions for my judge, he had us prepare suggested questions for him for the oral arguments and would cross-examine us on them to train us to think on our feet. It was good. I did that for the chief judge at that time of the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which hears all patent appeals in the United States as well as a variety of other topics. They’re mostly known as the Patent Appeal Court just right below the supreme court. My Judge is Paul Mitchell, who’s now retired, but he was amazing to work for. Then I joined a firm in DC a small firm that did lots of trials and appellate work, supreme court work I got to do, didn’t ever argue before the supreme court, but I got to became a member of the bar and was on several briefs, and then I did some trials too. That was my first taste of trial work, which I loved. The group I work for the firm is Kellogg, Hansen.
Lindsay: Most of the guys who had founded it were former federal prosecutors, former assistant US attorneys. I heard every day, the best job I ever had. Do it if you ever get the chance and then lo and behold, Alexandria Virginia, Eastern District, right across the bridge from Red Cross Potomac was launching cyber and national security so unit cybercrime. I knew that I would at least get an interview with my MIT background so I did, and I was lucky enough to get the position. I was one of the first assistant US attorneys in the cyber unit there, which was amazing.
John: That’s fascinating. Talk a little bit about education. Is this ongoing debate, Lindsay, now with the next generation, is classic education that you and I knew from growing up and going to college and into grad school? Is it necessary anymore or unnecessary and what are your feelings on that? You have five kids that you have to inform and guide on that important issue. Then talk a little bit about, specifically MIT, you have a theory on what goes on at MIT and why people end up they do when they get out of MIT. Share a little bit about that with our audience.
Lindsay: Yeah, sure. The bigger question on education and its purpose of it.
Lindsay: I have a couple of thoughts on that. First, I have very smart friends who are in their young 30s who don’t have kids yet who have said to me,” I doubt my child will go to college.” They went to great colleges, that sentiment is definitely out there.
Lindsay: What I can say from what I’m seeing in the workplace, but also just thought leadership I’ve been listening to on the topic is and also, this is very consistent with my government experience, which is the structured programs, which would be laws regulations would also include degree programs are really behind. They’re usually behind but it’s becoming even more behind when you’re looking at how quickly things are evolving in the tech space. AI, Quantum. It’s impractical for a curriculum to be cutting edge given the pace of change. I have been hearing a lot about, certifications rather than full degrees. Someone takes training in this area, they have their credentialed in some way, but it’s a much more abbreviated and focused credential if they know they’re going into the AI space or the quantum space or something like that. MIT I think it’s different. I think there are certain educational opportunities that are just really valuable for me, law school was definitely one of those because I spend a lot of time thinking about incentive structures and why people do what they do. I think the law is one of the ultimate creators of incentives. They really teach you that a lot in Chicago where I went to law school. They teach you to think about, “Okay, here’s the law now. What are different players going to do when they are acting in a self-interested way given this legal structure?” That training I think is very valuable just to operate in the world. At MIT, what I think they’re amazingly good at is teaching you not to be overwhelmed with huge problems. What you are taught, you’re given enormous problems from day. I’m talking about problem sets that are really hard. But also students there tend to think about big global issues. Big harms facing society need to be fixed. You are taught to stay calm and break it down into manageable chunks and then attack them one by one. And I think when you are trained in that way over and over again it just becomes habitual. It is certainly habitual to me. I have noticed in my career that I get overwhelmed less than other people do. I credit the MIT education for that almost entirely, plus because you are humbled immediately at MIT.
Lindsay: The students there don’t have big egos. They don’t realize how great they are for the most part, but they certainly don’t go around telling everyone how great they are because you fail a lot there all the time.
John: Well, a lot of my friends that have gone there also tell me, and I just love what you just said about, I never heard that before in terms of the ability to take on big problems and stay cool and then you said, methodically, sequentially attack that problem. That makes a ton of sense. But what a lot of people also tell me is someone like you who was the high achiever in Duluth, and you were the superstar that come out of Duluth and you end up at MIT. But what you realize is, “Ah, there’s other smart people in this world.”
Lindsay: This is actually something my children tease me about because they were like, “You must have thought you were so smart when you went to college.” I was like, “Oh, I did.” They were like, “And then you realized you weren’t.” I was like, “Yeah.” They’re like, “Was that tough?” I was like, “A little.” Actually, it’s just the truth when you grow up in a small pond.
John: Right. You’re the big fish of the small pond.
Lindsay: Yeah. There’s no way around that you have to adjust.
Lindsay: They did a good job when I was there, at least of helping you with that. First of all, I remember that Killian Court is the big open grassy area where graduation is held and they have a convocation at the beginning, the first day of all the freshmen there and a speaker. My speaker said all the valedictorians stand up, and it was at least two-thirds of the incoming class.
Lindsay: He pointed at us and said, “You’re all going to get bees.”
Lindsay: That happened on day one.
John: He democratized a humble beginning for everybody.
Lindsay: Yeah, absolutely. But then also, one thing that was particularly helpful for me, coming from an objectively less prepared background than many of my classmates, and to give an example, my first class 9:00 AM on Monday chemistry, I’ll never forget it. The professor says “Chapters 1 through 8 should be reviewed for all of you, so we’re going to start at chapter nine.” I looked through and I was like, “Okay, 1 through 7, I get it.” I’ve never seen Chapter 8 before, and we’re skipping it. That’s literally how my career started there. They had no grades my entire freshman year, they’ve now changed that there allow students to have no grades, but it’s more spread out and you can pick the classes. But for me, when I was there, the entire freshman year was passed with no record and so they would always say A equals B equals C equals F, I mean equals P. That was entire to get rid of the competition and to allow people to just all acclimate together and it was extremely helpful for me.
John: That’s fascinating. Now, you look back, Lindsay. Was MIT the harder experience or Georgetown Law?
Lindsay: MIT. Well, no. This is really funny that you say that. It was Chicago, but Chicago law was the hardest for me.
John: Yeah, Chicago law.
Lindsay: Because it was the first time in my life there were no right answers.
John: Oh, okay.
Lindsay: I was used to math, and science, and you figure out genetics, right? It’s we know what’s going to happen there and then I get to law school and we can argue from what…
John: You were used to the black and white. All of a sudden you were now living in the gray.
Lindsay: That was part of the appeal because I wanted to develop that skill. I also wanted to become a better writer, which is not something that came naturally to me. But I definitely felt a little bit out of the water my first semester. I’d never taken a philosophy class before. We have a very famous class in Chicago called Elements of the Law that you take in your first quarter. It is all about the philosophy of law and I absolutely love that class. Cass Sunstein taught it. He’s amazing. But I was completely this idea of just picking aside and arguing and we never know who’s right. We’ll just debate it was really foreign for me and uncomfortable at first.
John: Wow. Now, you are a trustee at MIT and also an executive resident at Duke?
Lindsay: Yes. I’m teaching at Duke this semester. Well, my partner roped me into it. He’s teaching a class there too in the Pratt School of Engineering and I’m teaching in the School of Economics Quantitative Analysis of ESG investing for juniors and seniors. It’s a seminar class for finance and economics majors. It’s really fun.
John: Well, law, is it really fun? Talk about timeliness. 24 months ago, ESG investing was a hot topic. It still is a very hot topic. But ESG investing now from the great institution start right at the top with Larry Fink and BlackRock is, which seems to be here to stay. But recently there’s been a backlash with some states. And I’m not besmirching this backlash, but I want your thoughts on it that some states are divesting themselves from pension funds and other public funds that are going all in on ESG investing because they’re saying, “This is not what we want in this state. We don’t want to support in red states in particular ESG investing.” Is this a trend that’s just a response to the huge wave of moving from the linear to a circular economy and the ESG wave that seemingly is unstoppable and here to here to stay or do you see this as a possible deal Keller in this whole ESG revolution?
Lindsay: Yeah, good question. One thing we do at the beginning of each class is the students take turns picking an ESG in the news, and it’s something from the past week that is a timely topic. This is almost every week’s discussion, right?
John: Oh, wow.
Lindsay: The students are very concerned about the politicization of ESG.
Lindsay: I’ve actually, I’m not pessimistic about it in the long run. I think primarily because Europe is doing it no matter what, and they are going ahead.
Lindsay: Their regulations and rules are going to hit a lot of US companies as they get phased in over time. There’s really no avoiding it. I’ve talked to what I would have said, ESG-focused investors, and some of them are starting to call themselves just sustainability investors focused on sustainability.
Lindsay: Explicitly, to get out of this ESG debate. Also, my chartered financial analyst, CFA. When I think about it with that hat on my end, my prediction as to where this all ends up is that it is simply one more factor that you take into account as an investor when you are constructing a portfolio that is ideal for your client, whoever the client may be. Right now you do what’s the risk tolerance? What are the cash demands? What is their time horizon and what is their ESG preference? I think should just be another one of those. I think that the reaction of some of the states saying, “Okay, well, the one topic we talked about in class is banks that have ESG funds that don’t invest in oil and gas. Those banks are entirely barred from our state. Now, in Texas, the comptroller said that’s pretty extreme.
Lindsay: Actually, first of all, the banks have argued that’s not quite precise. But even if it were they obviously also have investments that this ESG is a product, right? To boycott an entire company, for a state to boycott an entire company based on a product offering is something I’ve not seen before and I hope doesn’t last.
John: Obviously, you have a tremendous classical education and now you’re a practicing federal prosecutor practicing also now in the cyber division, Cyberlaw. Where did you fall in love with Social Ventures and the ESG space prior to founding Roivant Social Ventures, where did that love of environment and ESG come from for you?
Lindsay: Yeah, okay. When I finished practicing law, I left the government, I joined Irell & Manella a great firm out here in California.
John: Great firm.
Lindsay: I launched a cyber and data security practice group there. I was doing that and it was not as dramatic as my former assistant US attorney job, but it was responsible and I was helping companies. Then one of my friends from MIT called me out of the blue and said, “Hey, we are launching this new biotech that’s going to try to be more efficient in the way that we develop drugs. Come and join us, build and run our deal team.” At first, I said, “Okay, you know I don’t do that, right?” He said, “That’s okay, You’ll learn.” One great thing too, I like learning all the time and it’s a special opportunity when people know you and trust you and are like, “We don’t care if you haven’t done this before, just come and learn how to do it,” so that was fantastic. I thought you don’t get a lot of these calls and something that was never public as they had just closed the largest ever private raise in biotech. I knew they were going to be around for a while. I say, “Yes” to that.
John: That’s a call right there, but that’s such an important point that young people have to really hear. We obviously all as humans want to be comfortable unless it’s neurosurgery or heart transplant surgery, or almost everything else, when you take a super committed, great person who’s brilliant, of great character, and has great energy, you can take that person. Of course, in this situation we’re, I’m referring to you in the phone call you got from your colleague at MIT and your fellow alumni, and you can put yourself into a situation where you don’t really have those skills that day one, everything’s learnable.
Lindsay: Yeah, some people like that and some people don’t. When I would talk to people, Roivant grew rapidly. When I was there, there were five of us, right? Then…
John: This was the beginning of Roivant, right there?
Lindsay: This was the beginning of Roivant. Right.
John: Okay, so that was Roivant.
John: Oh, wow.
Lindsay: Yeah. 800 people. We launched 16 biotechs under my tenure running the deal team, have five approved medicines now from that, did several IPOs and…
John: What year was that?
Lindsay: That was the beginning of 2016. The end of 2015 is when they did that big private raise I mentioned.
John: Got it.
Lindsay: Yeah, when I would talk to potential candidates, one of the things I would say is to succeed here, you have to be comfortable being uncomfortable because we are trying to do things differently and you will not be given a roadmap. You will be given a goal and you have to figure out how to get there and how to navigate it.
John: Let’s pause. Did you start with five people?
Lindsay: Yeah. They had one company they had launched. I’m not counting to people who are at that company.
John: Right. How many people are now involved?
Lindsay: Well, I don’t know the exact date today because it was 800 at its peak and then we sold five companies. We’re less than that, maybe 500 now.
John: Got it.
Lindsay: I would say if I guess.
John: For our listeners and viewers who’ve just turned in, we’ve got Lindsay Androski. She’s the founder president and CEO of Roivant Social Ventures. You can find Roivant at www.roivant.com. Lindsey, before we go further, share a little bit about the meaning of the name.
Lindsay: Oh, yeah. ROI is the return on investment, just as you would expect, and then for some reason that has not ever been fully explained, every company ends with Vant. All of our companies are Mayavant, Dermavant, and Urovant. If you see Vant at the end of a biotech name, it means that we launched it. It’s just a habit. It was controversial. Some people loved it, some people hated it, but it’s stuck. All the companies have that at the end.
John: This is the end of 15, the beginning of 16.
John: You launched then and the incubator and the offices were at MIT, were they in New York?
Lindsay: No, New York City-based. There was an MIT cohort in a Harvard cohort because our founder and CEO were from Harvard. There were those two and back then no one knew who they were and no one knew what they were doing. It was really only friends who would work for the company, people who knew the people were smart. We had a little bit of competition. I think the MIT cohort eventually lost, which I was a little bummed out about. But it happens.
John: Am I correct to say that a fellow alumnus of yours at MIT is Noubar Afeyan? The…
Lindsay: No. Noubar’s on the MIT board of trustees with me. But he has a flagship, pioneering and no, my friend is Mayukh Sukhatme, who’s Roivant Chief Investment Officer.
John: Well, but Noubar is co-founder of Moderna.
Lindsay: Yes. But that’s not a Roivant company that came out to flagship.
John: But it’s great to have someone like that in your…
Lindsay: Yeah, I know Noubar. He’s awesome.
Lindsay: He’s amazing too.
John: I’ve had a chance to be with him on a couple of occasions. He’s larger than life, isn’t he?
Lindsay: Yes. Absolutely.
John: What a brilliant guy. This is, again, my whole thing about MIT people.
John: Talk about now becoming an entrepreneur.
John: You’re an entrepreneur, now that you’re putting on a whole new hat, you’re incubating, you’re entrepreneurs, you’re coaching, you’re mentoring. How was that change and shift in your life? How’d it worked?
Lindsay: I think it’s funny that you asked about the meaning of the Roivant name because that had something to do with why I decided to launch Roivant Social Ventures.
Lindsay: As time went on and we were getting bigger, and we had more money to deploy on our projects and companies, it’s the curse of success. We started saying no to programs, meaning potential drug treatment. That’s what we were doing.
Lindsay: When our diligence and our analysis said, “This can be meaningful to patients, but it wasn’t a big enough money maker.” I started because we had ROI, and return restrictions that we had promised to our investors. Some of these programs are just amazing. The day one there I was given two deals to close. One turned into our company, Mayavant. One turned into our company Enzyvant. Mayavant is a large market, for women’s health and is now a prostate cancer, men’s health company. Enzyvant is a rare disease that we actually took the program out of Duke, 20 to 25 kids a year, born without a thymus. The thymus is the school where your white blood cells go to learn which germs to fight. If you don’t have one, you die by age two. That is not a big money maker. It was a program that we said, yes to at the beginning, and is now one of our approved drugs, which is amazing. It’s called Rethymic. But that’s an example of the type of thing where we wouldn’t even think of doing something like that today. Frankly, it wasn’t expensive enough. We weren’t going to make enough money. It was not worth the resources. I thought to myself, how can I set up a structure that focuses on… Is there an unmet need? Will patients benefit from this? Will traditional venture and investment funds not go after it? I can say yes to that. I settled on Roivant Social Ventures, which is a non-profit so that’s the only difference.
John: When did you launch Roivant Social Ventures?
Lindsay: I launched that in mid-2020.
John: Mid-2020. For our listeners and viewers to find Roivant Social Ventures. It’s Roivant, again, roivantsv.org., roivantsocialventures.org., roivantsv.org. Now, this is set up. Where did the funding come from for this?
Lindsay: Yeah, the funding came from Roivant Sciences. This is our answer to corporate philanthropy. This is our version of this. We are trying to do something that’s more active. Meaning not necessarily just feel good stuff, but let’s take our skills and expertise that we have in this sector and let’s deploy them in a charitable manner to things that we wouldn’t invest in in a for-profit way. It’s also, a really important thing for employee morale and really just company culture because all of the employees can volunteer their time pro bono on my projects. That’s where my staffing comes from, my project-specific staffing.
John: They come right from the parent company, Roivant. You could reach up and, and get anybody from there that you need.
Lindsay: Yep, for the companies that we’re helping or the academic research institutions we’re partnered with for development and diversity, we’re trying to improve diversity in our industry. I can say, “Oh, we have a regulatory question. Let’s get a regulatory expert who can weigh in on this.” It’s really exciting, I think for the employees too to be able to, usually, when you’re doing charitable volunteer work, you’re not using your professional expertise. It’s really fun for them, they have a day job still, right? I don’t get them full-time, but we have really good feedback from the volunteers who get to work on some of our projects and help. I think it makes them feel more connected and more directly impactful.
John: Your model at Roivant Social Ventures is to invest, incubate and educate.
John: What’s your main goal given that you’re a cyber expert? Obviously, you’re a legal expert, obviously, you definitely have huge background now from Roivant in the medical world, plus also now you’re running this incubator. What kind of ventures do you want to be incubating and where does ESG fit into this as well?
Lindsay: Yeah. Okay. I’ll tackle the ESG part first. We are actually trying to be thought leaders in how can we embed into ESG principles and also get impact investors, and other impact investors to sign onto this thing that is important for global access to medicines, data transparency, and diversity in clinical trials. Those are the three pillars of what we have selected that we’re trying to push forward and it’s embedded into all of our programs. When we will invest in something, we will require a company to commit to those conditions if and when a drug is approved, or I guess in the case of clinical trials when the trials are run but we’re in the process now. One of our efforts is to build a consortium of like-minded investors who will go along with this because we’re just one person and we don’t write big checks. We go in very early and it’s for this to stick and have the results we want, which is medicines once approved, getting to the world, we want study results published or made available publicly, not necessarily published so that others can benefit from the data that was collected, whether it’s positive or negative. We want to do it at a time that doesn’t pose a risk to the business. Meaning the profitable drug development venture. We want drugs to be tested on patients that actually reflect the real disease state. Not just patients who attend wealthy white centers of excellence so for some diseases that might be appropriate, but for a lot of them, it’s not. Those are the areas that we’re focusing on with ESG.
John: Is that different in terms of taking the published studies and democratizing them and making them open source? Is that different than historically what happened in the testing in the medical world?
Lindsay: Yeah. I think you’re talking about the recent White House directive to make that no paywalls basically is what the White House said. That’s a subset, right?
Lindsay: Most data generated never get published, never even gets submitted for publication. There’s some amazing statistics out there on even when FDA approval is sought like only 75% of the information is published. No one publishes their negative data. Even if they tried the journal might say thanks, but no thanks, right? When I think about this with my data hat on, I think of like, “Oh my gosh, all the lost learnings.” Especially, as we are moving into computational biology, big data, and machine learning, it’s what kind of solutions or what kind of subsets of populations or dosing. You name it, what could the sophisticated computing systems find that would make people healthier, make development faster, and discover things that we already have that would work that we just didn’t realize? So it’s, I think it’s really important for companies even with historical data, this is all siloed in biotechs and pharma to make it available. But we’re not focused on the past. We’re focused on going forward with our ESG and investing work. But I would also love to see, past data made available publicly.
John: Talk a little bit about those two translators that you just brought up Big data and AI. Noubar professes that the application of Big data and AI with regards to the creation and testing and socialization of new breakthrough medicines such as the Moderna vaccine for COVID is really the future.
John: Is that how you guys see it as well?
Lindsay: It absolutely is so Roivant Sciences has itself moved away from the past model, which was taking drugs that someone else had invented and bringing them through to commercial approval and commercialization and has gone all in on computational discovery, AI-enabled discovery. We purchased a company, and Roivant purchased a company, Silicon Therapeutics, that is now Roivant Discovery. We’ve spun out a couple of vants from that group, but we’re all in on that type of drug discovery going forward.
John: Talk a little bit about, Lindsay the issue of the future of personalized medicine and how does that inform you with regards to what you’re trying to do and what your goals are to invest, incubate and educate?
Lindsay: Yeah, I tell my children, I think we are still in the primitive days of how we treat medicine basically, and how we treat diseases. To me, we will no longer be as primitive once everyone is being tested and dosed and prescribed based on their personal genomic data and epigenetics whatever you want. But my partner and I joke like, “We need to carry a little a USB type thing that just has your genetic code.” When you go to the doctor that they plug it in and they’re like, “Okay, yeah, you’re not at risk for this but here’s the dosing you should have.”
John: Isn’t that really the database of 23andme and what they’re going to be able to the doctor’s office…
Lindsay: Yeah, I’m a big fan of that.
John: Yeah. Aren’t you going to be able to sign the HIPAA away to 23andme when you’re at a certain doctor’s office and they’ll be able to access your genomics?
Lindsay: Yeah, probably, that would be fantastic. But there’s a lot of other hurdles along the way. One thing, certainly when I was even with my deal team hat on at Roivant Sciences. I was very attracted to companies that were pursuing individualized medicine. Meaning we run a screening to see who is the subset of patients that we know will benefit from something. There’s a lot of sophisticated platforms out there that can do that high throughput screening. Then we look for those patients only to treat. I am well aware anyone in this industry is well aware of big drug trials that have failed, not because the drug didn’t work, but because the company running the trial wanted the broad label, which means they put people in a trial knowing that they were not in the subset of the patient population that would benefit most from it. But we’re hoping to be able to have it prescribed to everyone which I think is bordering on an unethical business practice today. Certainly, as we become more knowledgeable about subpopulations and genetic predispositions and things like that.
John: You launched Roivant SV. Again, for our listeners and viewers to find your new venture, it’s roivantsv.org in 2020. How did the pandemic affect the trajectory of what your vision was, now, God willing, we’re in a post-pandemic stage. Where are you now in terms of your entrepreneurial journey running Roivant Social Venture now?
Lindsay: It was amazing timing for us, and I was influenced by the pandemic in the directions that we went early on. Two of our earliest projects were both focused on simplifying the manufacturing of advanced treatments so that they can be locally manufactured all throughout the world. It was to get low and middle-income countries off the supply chain because they were very low priority. We invested in a company called Sunflower Therapeutics, which is out of MIT, and about the size of a galley kitchen, you can make vaccines, and then you can switch to other biologics, eventually insulin. This is something that someone with a GED-level education can operate.
John: How are we doing? How’s it doing?
Lindsay: Yeah, it’s great. We funded the build-out of their commercial prototype, which has now been built and sold, and they are in discussions with buyers and purchasers in other countries to try to start deploying it there. It’s very exciting stuff, but everyone was paying attention to that, right? I no longer have to explain to people that it’s dangerous if countries can’t make their own vaccines, right? Everyone gets that because we all saw that COVID vaccines are available only in the wealthiest countries where they’re being manufactured, and good luck if you’re in Sub-Saharan Africa or some other places. That’s one way COVID was helpful because it just showed light everyone on health discrepancies and access to medicines discrepancies that have been around for a long time, and then we have a similar program. We co-launched a group called GGTI, the Global Gene Therapy Initiative, basically doing the same thing a simplified device to manufacture gene therapies that can be done by a hospital worker at a center of excellence. It still needs to be right now. We’re partnered initially with Uganda and Indian top hospitals and sickle cell and HIV gene therapies to start. But those types of advanced therapies will never get to patients unless you can make it in a more simple way. That’s one bucket and then I’d say the second bucket is diversity issues. Diversity in leadership in our industry, but also drug treatments and patients in clinical trials. Noubar can tell you that it was hard for them to get a good representation of the population in the Moderna, the COVID vaccine trials. They got it done but it was a hurdle. It really made a difference when doctors were then in real life trying to persuade people to take the vaccine because you could say in people who look like you, here’s what happened. Those statistics were really good, no one was going to the hospital. That data, it’s good business to have that. I think a lot of our efforts today and why I’m in San Diego today is we’ve partnered with several academic research institutions to embed drug development training into existing graduate programs so that students, we want to focus on women and minority students can get hands-on experience developing real drugs for underserved patient populations, it takes years to acquire that type of experience in the real world. If you go to biotech and can both actually help move these treatments forward because these again, are the things that are not super attractive right now to traditional venture investors. Then they can go out and if they choose to go into the drug development industry or elsewhere, they will have a broad base of knowledge that they were able to get in a very condensed amount of time.
John: You’re only two years into this. What kind of impact do you see RSV making in the world over the next five years now that we’re hopefully going to be able to travel more like you’re doing on this trip and get it out and about and spread the word? When you go to bed at night, what’s your real goal and mission for the next five years ahead in terms of the impact you can make with RSV?
Lindsay: Yeah, with the global access initiatives I mentioned like the one in the gene therapy one, we hope to dose the first patients with local knee gene therapy by the end of next year. Five years out, I would like to see that adopted in many different locations around low-middle-income countries. For academic and research partnerships, I’m talking about five years is a good amount of time. We have some ramp-up periods, but let’s say four years of actual students working on this. I would like to see drugs advanced to the point where they are approved or close to approval through these training programs. Because what it’s been six years at six years since I joined, well, six and a half years since I joined. Five of the drugs we took in and that time have been approved. I think in five years we can certainly, I expect to be able to point to a few drug approvals that came out of the training programs that we’re putting together.
John: Does Roivant SV run out of DC or run out of New York City as well?
Lindsay: Our headquarters are in New York officially.
John: Got it.
Lindsay: My back and forth weekly to New York stopped when COVID hit.
John: That’s when Zoom took over, which is great.
John: Yeah, which has connected us all and made our travel burden somewhat better. In terms of our audience getting involved. It’s always great to give calls to action in terms of getting involved and supporting what you’re doing in Roivant Social Ventures. How can that happen, Lindsay?
Lindsay: Yeah, I think two ways. People who are knowledgeable in this field can volunteer. Most of our volunteers come from Roivant Sciences, but we have outside volunteers too who are just experienced in biotech and want to work on our projects so that’s part one. Part two is academic research institutions that like the sound of an embedded drug development program for their students. We need to scale this model at many institutions. We are working with two so far to see the impact that we want in changing the faces of the leadership and really making a dent in getting drugs for underserved patient populations approved. Then part three is we need financial support. Roivant covers all of the employee costs and the overhead. But any project expenses come from outside donors, so we will need that type of support as well.
John: For those donors, Roivant Social Ventures is a 501(c)(3)?
Lindsay: It is a 501(c)(3), Yes. Public charity.
John: Got it. Any last words because I want you to have the final word before we have to say goodbye for today.
Lindsay: I guess, I’ll circle back to my observation about MIT students and I will encourage your listeners to not shy away from the largest problems that we have, and instead, focus on how you can change even parts of that. Because we all can make a difference in making the world a better place. It’s very important to focus on that rather than the complexity or scale of a particular issue.
John: Lindsay, we had you on Impact today, the Impact podcast today because you are making a difference in making the world a better place with all the impacts that you’ve made throughout your career, especially now at Roivant Social Ventures, people can find you and your colleagues at www.roivantsv.org. Lindsey Androski, you’re always welcome back to share your journey. I know you have a long way to go. You’re a young woman and I wish you continued success and continue to make the impact that you’re making and making the world a better place.
Lindsay: Thank you, John. It’s been great to be here.
John: This episode of the Impact Podcast has been brought to you by Closed Loop Partners. Closed Loop Partners is a leading circular economy investor in the United States with an extensive network of Fortune 500 corporate investors, family offices, institutional investors, industry experts, and impact partners. The closed loop platform spans the arc of capital from venture capital to private equity, bridging gaps and fostering synergies to scale the circular economy, the fine closed loop partners, please go to www.closedlooppartners.com.