Red Tree Venture Capital was founded in 2020 by Heath Lukatch, Ph.D., and Jennifer Cochran, Ph.D., two experienced life science industry veterans with deep connections to the West Coast academic and biopharma ecosystems.
Heath Lukatch, Ph.D.
Dr. Lukatch co-founded Red Tree Venture Capital and serves as the firm’s managing partner. A highly regarded and accomplished life science industry investor, his 36 career investments have resulted in 20 value-creating exits including 11 companies entering the public market and nine others being acquired.
From 2015 -2020, Dr. Lukatch worked at TPG where he was partner, managing director and life sciences investment team leader in TPG’s Biotech, Growth and RISE platforms. In 2006, Dr. Lukatch co-founded Novo Ventures’ San Francisco office, where he was a partner through 2015. Prior to joining Novo Ventures, Dr. Lukatch was a managing director responsible for biotechnology venture investments at Piper Jaffray Ventures and SightLine Partners.
Dr. Lukatch currently serves as chairman of Acrigen Biosciences and Satsuma Pharmaceuticals (STSA) and is a board member at Excellergy, Magnus Medical, Syncopation, Vaxcyte (PCVX) and Virsti Therapeutics, and a board observer at Alladapt and Ceribell. Previously Dr. Lukatch was chairman of Cianna Medical (acquired by Merit Medical), Engage Therapeutics (acquired by UCB), Inogen (INGN) and Spinifex (acquired by Novartis), and served on multiple life sciences company boards, including Amira (acquired by BMS), AnaptysBio (ANAB), Ceribell, Elevation Pharma (acquired by Sunovion), Flexion (FLXN, then acquired by Pacira), FoldRx (acquired by Pfizer), InSound Medical (acquired by Sonova), Synosia Therapeutics (acquired by BioTie) and ViaCyte (acquired by Vertex). Dr. Lukatch was also a board observer at Alios BioPharma (acquired by J&J), Dynavax (DVAX), Fluidigm (FLDM) and SI-Bone (SIBN).
Prior to becoming an investor, Dr. Lukatch worked as a strategy consultant with McKinsey & Company and was co‐founder and CEO of AutoMate Scientific, a biotechnology instrumentation company. In addition, he was a bench scientist at Chiron, Roche Bioscience and Cetus, doing molecular biology, electrophysiology and protein chemistry, respectively. Dr. Lukatch received his Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Stanford University where he was a DOD USAF Fellow, and his B.A. with high honors in Biochemistry from the University of California at Berkeley.
Jennifer Cochran, Ph.D.
Dr. Cochran co-founded Red Tree Venture Capital and serves as the firm’s chief scientific advisor.
She is a professor and the chair of the department of bioengineering at Stanford University, where she also is a professor (by courtesy) of chemical engineering and a member of the cancer biology, biophysics and immunology training programs. Dr. Cochran serves as the director of the Stanford/NIH biotechnology pre-doctoral training program, and is also the faculty director of protein therapeutics at the Stanford Innovative Medicines Accelerator (IMA). Her research and translational interests span protein-based drug discovery and development for applications in oncology and regenerative medicine, and development of new technologies for high-throughput protein analysis and engineering.
Dr. Cochran brings extensive company formation experience, having founded multiple start-ups in the fields of oncology and regenerative medicine, and has held various roles in these and other organizations. From 2015 to 2020 she served as Chief Scientist of Lagunita Biosciences, a healthcare investment company and incubator, and was co-founder and Director of xCella Biosciences, where she also served as President from 2015 to 2017 while on leave of absence from Stanford. She currently serves on the board of Ligand Pharmaceuticals (LGND), Revel Pharmaceuticals, and Virsti Therapeutics, is a board observer of Acrigen and Excellergy, and a founding advisor to Switch Bioworks.
Dr. Cochran has published over 100 research papers in peer-reviewed medical and scientific journals. A prolific innovator, she is a named inventor on over 50 issued and pending patents. A number of molecules invented by Dr. Cochran and her collaborative teams are under pre-clinical or clinical development, including batiraxcept (formerly AVB-500), which is currently in Phase 3 clinical trials for ovarian cancer, novel protein-based cancer therapeutics that modulate innate/adaptive immunity in the tumor microenvironment, and engineered growth factors being developed for regenerative medicine applications. Her team at xCella Biosciences developed xPloration, a high-throughput screening platform that enables massively parallel, quantitative biochemical measurements to be performed on millions of B cell-producing antibodies, which was acquired by Ligand Pharmaceuticals (LGND). Dr. Cochran also co-founded ophthalmology drug company Combangio, acquired by Kala Pharmaceuticals (KALA), and along with immuno-oncology luminary Ron Levy and Nobel laureate Carolyn Bertozzi, co-founded Virsti Therapeutics, to advance a novel, differentiated approach for tumor-targeted immunotherapy.
Dr. Cochran received a Ph.D. in biological chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she completed her postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of biological engineering. She has been recognized with numerous awards including the NIH/National Cancer Institute Howard Temin Award and was inducted as a fellow to the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE).
Jon Edwards, Ph.D.
Dr. Edwards is Red Tree’s managing director and brings the firm broad life science company creation and investment experience. During his career, he has led and sourced more than 12 investments, with three of those taken public and three acquired, including the multi-billion dollar acquisitions of Synthorx, Inc. and Impact Biomedicines.
Prior to joining Red Tree, Dr. Edwards was on the founding team at Medicxi, a therapeutics-focused venture fund, where he was most recently a partner in Medicxi’s London office. He began his venture capital career at Index Ventures in Switzerland. Before moving to Europe, Dr. Edwards was a life sciences strategy consultant at ClearView Healthcare Partners based in Boston.
His investments previous include Synthorx (THOR; acquired by Sanofi), Phathom Pharmaceuticals (PHAT), Checkmate Pharmaceuticals (CMPI; acquired by Regeneron), Impact Biomedicines (acquired by Celgene), Sydnexis Inc., Xenikos B.V., and Breakpoint Therapeutics Gmbh. Dr. Edwards held board seats in all the aforementioned companies (observer seats in Synthorx and Checkmate Pharmaceuticals). He has also held board seats on Z-Factor Ltd., UltraHuman Ltd., and Palladio Biosciences and was a board observer with ApcinteX Ltd. and Capella Bioscience.
Dr. Edwards currently is a board member at Excellergy, Sardona Therapeutics, and Rondo Therapeutics. He received a Ph.D. in biochemistry and biophysics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and holds a B.S. from the University of Vermont. He began his career as a bench scientist at Sepracor, Inc. and conducted his postdoctoral research at MIT.
Krishna Polu, M.D.
Dr. Polu is an experienced clinical development executive with a track record of pipeline advancement and drug approvals across multiple therapeutics areas. Most recently, Dr. Polu was the executive vice president of research and development and chief medical officer at Equillium, a public biotech company focused on advancing novel targeted therapies for autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. Prior to Equillium, Dr. Polu was an entrepreneur-in-residence at Frazier Healthcare, where he founded Expedition Therapeutics and served as interim CEO of Scout Bio.
Dr. Polu is currently a board member at Frazier Lifesciences Acquisition Corporation (FLACU), a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) organized by Frazier Healthcare. He previously served as chief medical officer at Raptor Pharmaceuticals until its acquisition by Horizon Pharmaceuticals in 2016 for $800M. Dr. Polu has also served as chief medical officer at CytomX Therapeutics, led clinical development and pharmacovigilance at Affymax and held senior level positions in clinical development at Amgen in areas of heart failure, anemia of chronic kidney disease, and diabetes.
Dr. Polu currently serves as a board director for Bicara Therapeutics and as a board observer for Magnus Medical. He received his B.A. in human biology from Stanford University and an M.D. from the University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio. He completed his residency in internal medicine at the University of Colorado followed by a fellowship in nephrology at Harvard Medical School at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital.
An experienced financial executive, Matt offers Red Tree expertise across a range of key functions including investment reporting, legal, compliance and administration. He is managing member of venture CFO consulting firm Lomond Hill, LLC, has served as CFO & partner of Delphi Ventures and was controller of a venture-backed software startup. Matt holds a B.S. in business administration with concentrations in accounting and finance from Cal Poly, is a certified public accountant and is a member of the California State Board of Accountants.
Jodi served as a partner for B Capital, Balderton, and March. Prior to that, she founded a hedge fund and was an e-commerce entrepreneur in China. Jodi started her career in banking at Citi and HSBC. She holds a B.S. from the University of Pennsylvania (Wharton) and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School. Jodi is thrilled to be a steward of capital towards a better future for humankind. RedTree is creating that future a little bit every day!
Samad Wahid, M.D.
Dr. Wahid has broad life science industry experience, both as an investor and a team member at innovative drug development companies. He most recently worked at SR One Capital Management, where he focused on early-stage biopharma investment opportunities, as well as new company creation. Prior to SR One, he served as a member of the healthcare team at OCA Ventures. Dr. Wahid also worked with LAVA Therapeutics, a clinical-stage immuno-oncology company, where he supported the company’s growth strategy. Additionally, he was an early team member of Myoarete, an innovative start-up that was spun out of the University of Pennsylvania to develop innovative therapies for the treatment of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). His career has also included investment banking and consulting experience at J.P. Morgan and L.E.K. Consulting.
He began his career as a practicing physician, followed by a position as a surgeon-in-training focused on pediatric surgery in the UK’s National Health Service. Dr. Wahid also has international clinical experience working with the pediatric surgery team at the Cleveland Clinic and volunteering in a hospital deep in the Amazon rainforest in Iquitos, Peru.
Dr. Wahid received his M.D. from Imperial College London with a triple distinction and an MBA from the Wharton School where he was a Thouron Scholar. He received his BSc in Medical Sciences and Management from Imperial College London with first class honors.
Scientific Advisory Board
The Red Tree Venture Capital team is augmented by a scientific advisory board of academic thought leaders affiliated with the West Coast’s most prestigious institutions. These individuals, who include department chairs, division chiefs and institute heads, are also established entrepreneurs collectively credited with founding more than 25 companies.
Further supplementing the firm’s leadership is a team of senior advisors comprised of experienced biopharma executives that provide Red Tree Venture Capital broad expertise across key aspects of the life science industry, including company creation/building, business operations and drug development.