Eli Casdin Infuses Synthetic Biology Company with Fresh Capital

Last month, leading synthetic biology company Codexis announced that Eli Casdin’s life-science focused investment firm Casdin Capital had invested approximately $50 million in the company via a private placement.

In announcing the deal, Casdin noted that “the ability to drive performance and economic advantages through the intelligent engineering of enzymes is now a critical capability across a diverse set of end markets….we believe that Codexis is one of the few proven management teams and technology platforms capable of capturing this fast-growing market demand and are excited to catalyze their strategic growth initiatives.”

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For Casdin and his firm, this investment in Codexis is in line with the type of next-gen life science innovations that they’ve been supporting for seven years.

However, Casdin’s path into life science investment was an unorthodox one. He studied at the University of Vermont for two years in the early 1990s before convincing his father to let him take his tuition money and start a clothing company. Casdin’s company, EDMC Clothing, started out creating “funky golf shirts” for men before pivoting towards teenage girls’ fashion.

Despite some success in the clothing industry—EDMC’s styles were carried by Barney’s, Fred Segal and Henri Bendel, among others—Casdin decided to go back to college. He convinced Columbia to let him finish his bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree at the same time, and so Casdin received his Bachelor of Science and MBA in Finance and Accounting concurrently in 2003.

Following his graduation from Columbia, Casdin worked as a research analyst at Cooper Hill Partners and Bear Sterns with a focus on healthcare investments in life science tools, diagnostics and medical devices. In 2007, he joined AllianceBernstein as an analyst in a thematic investment group.

After five years at AllianceBernstein, Casdin decided to venture off on his own, founding Casdin Capital. The firm now employs a team of 18, and Casdin continues to serve as Chief Investment Officer, Managing Member and Managing Partner. He also serves on the board of directors for a wide range of life science companies, including molecular diagnostic companies Prominex and Exact Sciences.