Ali Behbahani, MD

Partner, Co-Head of Healthcare

Ali joined NEA in 2007 and is currently a Partner and co-head of the firm’s healthcare team, specializing in the biopharmaceutical and medical device sectors. Before NEA, Ali worked at The Medicines Company, Morgan Stanley, and Lehman Brothers. He also spent time conducting research at the National Institutes of Health and Duke University. Ali concurrently earned an MD from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and an MBA from The Wharton School. He received his bachelor’s degrees in biomedical engineering, electrical engineering, and chemistry from Duke University.

What are you most passionate about when it comes to your work?

I love clinical medicine, but I got into investing because I’m excited by the potential of new drugs and devices to fundamentally reshape how we practice medicine. I find it incredibly rewarding to be able to explore new treatments and approaches to solving big, life-impacting problems.

What qualities do you look for in a founder?

I love working with people who are passionate about the problem they’re solving and demonstrate a sense of urgency toward solving it. I think it’s also important to be willing to listen to differing viewpoints but unafraid to make a decision

You’ve been with NEA for 16 years. What’s kept you here?

I grew up at NEA. I had the privilege to partner with and be mentored by what I believe to be some of the brightest minds in this sector. It’s the people I get to work with every day that keep me here.

What’s something that stands out when you reflect back on your 16 years here?

I believe our deep domain expertise at NEA enables us to form and incubate companies when we recognize gaps in the market. I was fortunate enough to be involved in the development of two companies in 2012–2014. We had spent several years examining the cell therapy space—an area I studied extensively while at school—and we identified some opportunity areas. We started two companies. The first was a next-generation chimeric antigen T cell company called Arcellx, which we founded with David Hilbert, a biotech entrepreneur. And the second was a natural killer cell company called Nkarta, which we founded alongside Dario Campana, a clinician/scientist from the National University of Singapore. It’s been deeply rewarding to be involved with these companies as they took shape, grew, and evolved, and as they continue to positively impact patient lives.

What makes NEA a valuable partner for founders and teams in the healthcare/life sciences space?

We have the ability to be the capital partner for a founder and company throughout the duration of the company-building process. Whether it’s helping to start companies around early-stage transformative technologies (like Arcellx, Tesaro, or CRISPR), or investing in a company that’s further along in development (like Nevro or Hyperion), or investing after it’s gone public (like InterMune and Acadia)—NEA is a partner who can be there from creation to public growth.

If you hadn’t found your way into venture capital, what would you be doing?

Surgery. I found the operating room thrilling as a medical student.

What was your first job, and how did it shape you?

My first job was working at a McDonald’s inside a Walmart in Gainesville, Florida. I learned that showing up is half the battle, and that being willing to help with tasks—no matter how small or large—is an important part of being on a team.

I love working with people who are passionate about the problem they’re solving and demonstrate a sense of urgency toward solving it.

Ali Behbahani, MD, Partner, Co-Head of Healthcare