Ask the Experts Interview Series

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Andreas Wüpper

Dr. Andreas Wüpper is Managing Director of Fresenius Medical Care Ventures GmbH, the corporate venture arm of Fresenius Medical Care AG. He is representing the fund on the board of Memo Therapeutics and Alucent Biomedical. Before entering into the world of venture capital, Andreas held different positions in product development and portfolio management in the medical device industry. Andreas holds a PhD in Physical Chemistry from the University of Cologne and an MBA from the Danube University in Krems.

Published June 19, 2024 7:34 am UTC+0

Ask the Experts Interview Series

with Andreas Wüpper

Tell us about yourself.

My current role is that of a Managing Director of Fresenius Medical Care Ventures GmbH. I have been part of the Ventures team since it was established in 2016. My role has developed over the past 8 years, but I am still involved in the daily routines from opportunity sourcing, due diligence, preparing the requests for approval by our Investment Committee, deal execution and management of portfolio companies.

Why did you decide to get into the life sciences?

When I had to make the choice for my discipline at university, I was both interested in chemistry and medicine. I chose Chemistry since this gave me a clearer pathway into research, and that was what I wanted to do. During my studies, I discovered that was fond of things that can be precisely measured and put into numbers, so I put a focus on physical chemistry.

For my PhD thesis, I found a perfect topic that combined my different interests. I studied transport processes in hollow fiber membranes that are used for hemodialysis. This was embedded in a larger project that looked at the clinical performance of the same membranes in dialysis patients. It was a great experience in translational science and paved my way into the medical device industry. 

You have a very impressive track record with the Fresenius Medical Care organisation for the past 2 decades. What was the transition from research into investments like?

I started working at Fresenius Medical Care in 1999 and was on an R&D career pathway that took me from project leader through team leader to managing the pre-development department. Having led the pathway from project start to regulatory approval and market entry is an important experience for me being on the investment side now. An important foundation for the later change to the investment side was an MBA I did in the second half of the 2000s. 

In 2015 the idea of establishing a corporate venture fund came up, and I have been part of a small project team that built the fund and obtained the required approvals from the management board. Our CVC unit went live in 2016 and I have been part of the venture team from its beginning. Corporate Venture Capital is a very intense but also rewarding job. In R&D you stay very long with one project and go very deep into it. In venture capital, you learn something new every day. Essentially you never stop exploring. You have to think about what type of businesses will be important for the future of the corporation and select these as investment targets. It is the ability to have an impact on future of the company that I like about corporate venture capital.   

What is your investment strategy/philosophy?  

We have a strategic investment focus. Fresenius Medical Care is both a provider of products for patients with renal diseases but also a provider of services for these patients. We are looking for anything that improves the lives of our patients and for anything that improves the way we are taking care of these patients.

Ideally, an investment target has the potential to contribute to future revenue streams through an acquisition or licensing agreement. But it is also an option for us to generate savings or improve patient outcomes through a strategic partnership with a portfolio company. For example, we have invested in a company that provides transportation to patients. The overlap between the majority of their customers and the patients we are serving is relatively small, so this company would not be a natural acquisition target. Yet, there is a strategic and financial benefit which comes through the collaboration.

Where do you think the broader life science industry trend is moving towards?

I believe that the trend of shortage of healthcare workers will be driving different developments, such as more chronic patients being treated at home, more post-acute patients at home, and any enabling technologies like remote monitoring, and IT solutions that support a more engaged patient. And I expect more personalized medicine, as we develop a better understanding of the differences of underlying factors of a disease and genetic differences between patients.  

Is there a challenge in terms of managing the deal flow or getting more promising potential portfolios in the door? 

We see a high deal flow of companies approaching us directly. Out of these, however, only a few have a strategic fit that warrants further diligence.  It is important to be out at conferences and speak to our investor network. Opportunities with a higher chance of strategic fit come in from our investor network, from people who know what we are looking for. 

Pre-vetted opportunities also come in through our operating departments and Business Development units. These are start-ups that our colleagues want to cooperate with, but which are not or not yet an acquisition target. We have a high-quality deal flow from internal resources. 

Are there any principles/ideas that you hold dear when it comes to evaluating potential portfolio companies?

I don’t think we differ much from other investors in terms of what we want to see at the potential investment target. We want a unique solution, that is clearly differentiating from competitors and which creates a barrier to entry. The experience of the Management Team and the atmosphere among them is very important. And we prefer strong investment syndicates, that are prepared to invest along with us in upcoming rounds. 

What have been some highlights in your career? 

In the mid-2000s my employer offered me to participate in an MBA program. Returning to an academic environment, but with a professional background, was a lot of fun and very rewarding. Other highlights have been a product launch at the end of a multi-year R&D project. And in my venture capital career, it was the first deal that I closed and my first nomination to a board director role in one of our portfolio companies. 

Key challenge faced right now?

It has been difficult for many start-up companies to attract financing over the past months. Pivotal milestones have been delayed for various reasons. Cash-out occurred before the milestones required to attract new money were met. As a consequence, we have seen several internal bridge financing rounds.

What drives you?

It is the curiosity for new things, to never stop learning, never stop exploring

Outside of work, what’s your hobby?

I like to be outdoors, to be hiking in the mountains, on via Ferratas or in canyons. I also enjoy good food and am always looking for interesting restaurants in the places I visit. 

Any closing remarks/general advice to share?

Don’t be afraid of giving up on your previous responsibilities when offered a new chance. When offered a new role within the company, I left the linear pathway I was on before and had to hand over previous responsibilities, eventually for smaller teams or smaller budget responsibilities. But it has been rewarding not taking the linear career route. 

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