PhD alumni Xiaoli Hu

Xiaoli Hu
Based: Stockholm, Sweden
Degree: PhD in lipid metabolism from Department of Laboratory Medicine (2008-2013)
Current role: Director Business Development; Life Science Venture Capital. Affibody AB


KI Education: PhD in lipid metabolism from Department of Laboratory Medicine (2008-2013)

Industrial Experience: Investment Professional at HealthCap (2013-2017)

Current Position: Associate Director Business Development at Affibody AB

My current position is an all-encompassing role that works closely with the core management to identify new targets and unmet market for pipeline development. In addition, I also need to make regular business interactions with peer biotech and large pharma to explore and discuss potential collaborations and partnerships.

How/why did you choose KI?

I graduated as a medical doctor in 2008 from the Medical School of Shanghai Jiao Tong University, which included two years of training in upper GI surgery. My mentor during this time, Dr. Tianquan Han, was a chief surgeon, who had also research collaborations with Prof. Gösta Eggersten and Prof. Paolo Parini at KI, both of whom I met in Shanghai in 2007. This meeting occurred during my second to last year for the surgery training, and I was looking for international research opportunities in the GI field - I wanted to see the world. I didn’t know that much about Sweden by then, but I knew KI was a renowned institute in the medical research field, and my clinical research experience with Dr. Han could give me better chance to continue as a scientific researcher. With that in mind, I introduced myself to Gösta and Paolo, and inquired a PhD position in their groups. I was offer a PhD position in 2008. Coming to KI has changed my life both professionally and privately. Today when I present myself with a KI PhD title to my business partners, I know it gives me confidence and high credibility.

How did you make the transition from KI to the pharmaceutical industry?

When I was a PhD student, I was very interested in the world outside of academia, but couldn’t find a way to break into it. Yet I kept my eyes open and looked consciously for any introductory opportunities. During my last year at KI, I was offered a one month internship by KI Career Service at HealthCap, a venture capital company that invests in biotech startups. During this one month, the world suddenly opened up and became so big. Together with my medical degree, the scientific education at KI laid a solid foundation for my knowledge background that is necessary to deliver high quality evaluation for investment decision making at HealthCap. My work was highly endorsed by the CEO and other partners, of whom a few are also KI alumni. I was offered a position after the dissertation. Although venture capital might sound very far from academia, I was never away from the medical sciences as I constantly review business cases coming freshly from the latest medical breakthrough worldwide. The years at HealthCap gave a perfect overview on the European and US biotech industry, and enriched my network with people in the field. Thanks to that, I became aware of the opportunity at Affibody, and eventually started my new venture.

What is your advice to students who are considering a career outside of academia?

I encourage the students to go out and explore the bigger world around you as early as possible. Reach out to people who work in the field which you want to enter after your study. Listen to their experience and advice. An in-depth understanding on the big picture helps to make wiser career moves. At the same time, it’s equally important to understand the reason that you want to leave academia. Know your strengths and know what you enjoy doing on a daily basis.

Content reviewer:
Peter Bergman