Boots on the ground

Patrick Tjok Joe

Associate Director Investment & Licensing

Patrick joined Agio as a Business Analyst in Healthcare in the early days of the company, after obtaining his PhD in translational immunology & infectious disease vaccines from the University of Brussels (2018). During his PhD, he played a key role in several international research collaborations & public-private partnerships, and obtained an additional Master in Management from Solvay Brussels School of Economics & Management (2018). Using this dual background in science & business, he currently supports Agio healthcare from the Europe office in Belgium.

When did you join AGIO Capital and how did you get in touch with us?
I joined Agio 3 years ago at the start of our healthcare vertical right after my PhD through Henk Joos, our director. I met him 2 years before I joined Agio at one of Flanders.Bio’s career events, the Biobizz Café. I was late to the event and couldn’t find where the event was held in the huge company building, not to mention that the reception hall was already dark and deserted. Fortunately, there was someone sitting on a bench near the entrance who was kind enough to take me to the Biobizz café room. He turned out to be the director of Flanders.Bio, Henk Joos! We had some nice chats (supplemented with Belgian beers) during the event about career paths in business development and Henk’s experience of 30 years in the field. 2 years later, when I was finishing my PhD, I got a message from him asking if I wanted to join Agio as an analyst. Of course I said yes!

Why did you join us?
During my PhD, our lab founded a biotech company that introduced me to the world of venture capital and the biotech industry. As a starting PhD student, you rarely come into contact with the private sector, let alone venture capital, strategy and C-level executives, so I was in awe of this new world opening up to me. Suddenly you realise that your research and ideas can go beyond publications and translational medicine becomes more than just a fancy term, but something real and closer to the patient. From my PhD research grant defences, I also developed a huge interest in presenting and defending projects early on, and so the whole concept of pitching to investors and raising money sounded really cool to me. When the spin-off subsequently raised a Series A of €24 million, it really inspired me to pursue a career outside academia in the direction of business development and finance. Of course, I never expected to enter that world so quickly at Agio!

What do you like about your work, what is your favourite part?
I still have to pinch myself when I get to talk to executives, investors and other professionals who have been in the business 10 times longer than me. Every conversation you learn from their experiences and feedback and you might even make new friends. Our collaboration with our partners in China has also given me the chance to rediscover parts of my culture. As a 4th-generation Chinese immigrant, it is easy to lose touch with your Chinese heritage and most of the stories we hear are also about a bad time in the country’s history. So it does give a bit of pride when you see how fast the country has grown or when you walk through Shanghai’s futuristic financial district to get to your next meeting on time.

What are your ambitions for the future?
There is still so much to learn at Agio Capital and my real ambition in the near future is to become a full-fledged business developer who can negotiate and close deals at a high level. My passion really lies in helping companies grow, so I’d like to use my experience in the future to help build new ventures & biotechs. I think it would be a cool next adventure to be in the middle of the action rather than being an external consultant, although Agio offers plenty of opportunities to do both.

What are your hobbies, what do you do in your spare time?
In my spare time, I enjoy kickboxing as it keeps my mind sharp and is a nice change from sitting at my desk all day. I also enjoy photography and multi-day hiking during holidays. There is something very relaxing about sleeping in nature and just thinking about getting from point A to B using only your feet. I have also started salsa dancing, but so far that has been a very humbling experience!

And finally, why is AGIO different from the rest?
Every project we take on is a new adventure, each with its own challenges and puzzle pieces. Not to mention that the life sciences market, especially in China, is really dynamic and constantly evolving, so you have to not only understand the client’s case, but also keep a very close eye on the market. I think these are 2 things that we do very well at Agio, because we have both feet on the ground in both Europe and China, and because we have a very diverse team with both a scientific background and experienced entrepreneurs who have built successful companies before and know the challenges. Our team is also very close-knit and basically we work on every project with the whole group, making sure we look at every angle of the business and make the best use of our different backgrounds. Open communication and trust are key themes in our group and I think this really makes a difference for our clients