Health

General Catalyst taps ex-Merck chief as it doubles down on health tech investments

Venture capital firm General Catalyst is ramping up its investments in healthcare and pharma and brought on big guns to help guide its strategy.

Former Merck chief Ken Frazier joined the firm in the newly created role of chairman of its health assurance initiatives. He will take the reins of the firm’s $600 million Health Assurance Fund, which was unveiled in April, and looks to build on recent successes like Livongo, the diabetes monitoring company that was acquired by Teladoc in a $18.5 billion deal.

The firm also invested in health insurance startup Oscar, which raised $1.4 billion in an initial public offering earlier this year.

The health-focused fund invests in early-stage and growth-stage healthcare businesses in areas like home hospital care, software infrastructure workforce transformation tools for care providers, payments and insurance, pharma software, women’s health and diagnostic.

Frazier will be tasked with building and expanding the firm’s healthcare ecosystem — including creating a closer partnership between healthcare and pharma, and with a focus on health equity, the firm’s managing partner Hemant Taneja wrote in an announcement.

RELATED: How Teladoc’s blockbuster deal could impact the entire virtual care landscape

During his decade-long tenure as Merck’s CEO, Frazier encouraged the company to take risks in developing novel vaccines and therapeutics and prioritized research funding as the source of long-term value creation. Under his leadership, Merck researchers made historic breakthroughs in immuno-oncology and other fields of medicine that have transformed clinical practice and greatly improved patient outcomes. Merck also established new research centers during his tenure.

In his new role at General Catalyst, Frazier will help guide the strategy of the firm’s healthcare initiatives in an effort to shift the paradigm from a “sick care” system to a resilient, proactive Health Assurance system—designed to help people stay well, bend the cost curve through innovation, and make quality care more affordable and more accessible to all, according to the VC firm.

“I have always believed in investing with purpose and GC is a firm that understands and embraces its responsibility to create meaningful outcomes for people everywhere. I am thrilled to be in a position to help bring that purpose to life at a time when people are acutely aware of the need for better, more affordable, and accessible care,” Frazier said.

The new job comes through an old law school buddy. Frazier attended law school with General Catalyst’s chairman and managing director, Ken Chenault.

The two have worked together over the past 18 months to advocate for social and racial justice, most recently, galvanizing the business community in support of voting rights, as well as co-founding OneTen, a coalition of companies coming together to upskill, hire and advance one million Black Americans over the next 10 years into family-sustaining jobs. 

RELATED: Oscar Health brings in $1.4B in stock listing, eyes $7.9B valuation

“We believe that the best way to transform the healthcare system is to collaborate with it. Ken is not just a proven operator in the pharmaceutical space, which is a critical constituency for us. He also is an established healthcare leader who shares our passion for creating a fairer, more equitable and effective healthcare ecosystem and society. We consider ourselves fortunate to have such a high-quality person and contributor as part of our growing firm,” Taneja said.

General Catalyst was founded in 2000 that has more than $8 billion in assets and raised $2.3 billion in funds as recently as last year, according to Forbes.

Frazier joins a growing bench of notable healthcare operators that have jumped to General Catalyst including three new executives-in-residence with a focus on the healthcare sector: Dr. Jennifer Schneider, M.D, M.S and former President of Livongo Health; Margo Geordiadis, former President and CEO of Ancestry.com; and Robin Washington, former EVP and Chief Financial Officer of Gilead Sciences.

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