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February 18, 2019

Serial entrepreneur Scheer has Lamont's ear

David Scheer

David Scheer has known Gov. Ned Lamont and his wife, Annie Lamont, for nearly 30 years.

“I built my first four companies with her,” Scheer said of Connecticut's first lady, a venture capitalist who worked with Scheer throughout the 1990s while at Oak Capital Partners.

Their shared hit list includes OraPharma, acquired by Johnson & Johnson in 2003 for $85 million; Esperion Therapeutics, picked up by Pfizer in 2004 for $1.3 billion; and ViroPharma, bought by Shire in 2014 for $4.2 billion. Oak Capital Partners was also an early investor in New Haven drug developer Achillion Pharmaceuticals, which Scheer founded. Achillion has not yet commercialized a product.

Scheer said he offered his help to Lamont during the gubernatorial campaign. He has since convened a group of 22 bioscience stakeholders to talk about policy proposals, including those in the 10-year bioscience plan. Members are also hoping to act as a bioscience wingman to Lamont's newly revamped economic-development team, helping to attract new bioscience companies and talent to the state, Scheer said.

There was “palpable” excitement at the working group's first meeting last month over the prospects of working with a governor who himself built a business, he added.

What might taxpayers and the bioscience industry expect when it comes to proposed legislation? Will Lamont's approach be anything like Malloy's major investment in the industry, which led to refurbished research labs, the doubling in size of UConn Health's incubator space and tens of millions of dollars in equity investments for its tenants and other bioscience startups, and of course, construction of The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine, which today houses more than 300 scientists and others who work inside its sparkling multi-story facility?

Unlikely, Scheer said. While the group hopes to build on those investments and recommend some of their own, members are cognizant of the state's challenging financial picture.

“I'm sensitive, as we all are, to some of the [state's] fiscal constraints,” he said. “I personally don't think we're looking for or going to need the magnitude that was deployed up in Farmington in order to make a meaningful contribution to our industry.”

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