KI Alumnus Armando Cuesta Díaz
Trained as a medical doctor in Spain, Armando Cuesta Díaz, a KI alumnus, surgeon and entrepreneur, has now set his sights on enhancing the future potential of basic research in Europe through fostering investment capital.
CURRENTLY RESIDES IN: Madrid, Spain
PROGRAM at KI: Surgery, via ERASMUS Exchange Programme 2006
CURRENT ROLE (Company and position): Founder and Managing Partner at ILANA CAPITAL
Over the course of his education as a physician researcher, Armando has developed a solid understanding of the main aspects that drive innovation in medicine. He strives to change this by attracting more capital to the ecosystem within the EU. “While there is great science being done at leading academic centers throughout Europe, we are not maximizing our potential to translating that science into companies that ultimately can deliver these patents and drugs to the patient´s bedside.”
Currently, Armando is Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Ilana Capital, an investment firm based in Spain that targets companies at the forefront of innovation in the Life Science industry. “Our first vehicle has more than $20 million euro in assets under management in a diversified portfolio across all therapeutic areas and clinical phases. I manage the scientific team in charge of sourcing the opportunities and ultimately performing a due diligence of each company, from the biological activity of the drug(s) and its clinical need, to the potential market, regulatory strategy being followed and potential IP issues.”
ERASMUS exchange at KI
A solid education with a diverse set of experiences paved the way for Armando to arrive at the founding of Ilana. Armando completed his M.D. at the University Complutense de Madrid, and was accepted to Karolinska Institute for a surgery exchange through the ERASMUS Program in 2006. He cites his exchange at KI as an instrumental part of his professional journey. “I chose KI because of the reputation of the institution, academic excellence of the faculty, state-of-the-art facilities, diversity of the students and vast amount of clinical exposure.”
“KI helped me better understand two aspects that have been very useful in my career. Firstly, the importance of having a multidisciplinary approach to tackling a problem. At KI, it was normal to have doctors from many different specialties discussing a case before performing surgery, and while this was rather uncommon in Spain at the time, it is now the norm given the multiple systems that are intertwined in each patient´s case. I have taken this lesson with me throughout my career and have surrounded myself by clever people from all different backgrounds, in order to see different perspectives.”
He highlights that his exchange at KI also taught him to be inquisitive and ambitious, and to continuously push to him to reach his goals and to spearhead projects both in the scientific arena and as an entrepreneur.
I chose KI because of the reputation of the institution, academic excellence of the faculty, state-of-the-art facilities, diversity of the students and vast amount of clinical exposure.
From physician researcher to entrepreneur
During the ten years after his graduation, Armando focused on mastering three concepts: First, how basic science translates to humans; second, the regulatory aspects related to clinical trials; and third, clinical experience in internal medicine both in the EU and abroad. His journey took him to the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, USA to perform bench research. Next, he completed an internship in internal medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, 2014 but felt a strong pull to return to research. He served as Clinical Director of a contract research organization in the US to gain experience within clinical trials, and pursued a postdoctoral fellowship in the fields of cardiology and neuroscience at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in 2016. “This broad experience enabled me to have a good understanding and foundation of the main aspects that drive innovation in Medicine and let me launch Ilana Capital as a way to have an impact on hundreds of thousands of patient’s lives by investing in the correct companies.” So far, Armando is on track for great impact. At the end of 2019, Ilana closed the fund as the best performing fund of Europe in Biotech in 2019 (49,54% during 2019) per MorningStar, a website that tracks fund performances.
Armando’s advice to current students
“Medicine will give you a great toolkit, one that is versatile and applicable in all kinds of scenarios. The opportunities will be vast. Open your mind and choose the path that you believe will make the most profound change around you, while being happy as you do it.”
Interview and correspondence, KI Alumni Office.