We are saddened to provide news that our Frazier Venture Partner, Tachi Yamada, passed away on Wednesday, August 4th. We would like to provide a few thoughts on what Tachi has meant to our firm, our portfolio companies, and our team.
Tachi was always a teacher, and the first connections that our firm had with Tachi was when he collaborated with Fred Silverstein, M.D. on The Textbook of Gastroenterology and Gus Watanabe, M.D. on The Textbook of Internal Medicine. They both helped us recruit Tachi to Frazier for the first time in 2011 after he was leaving GSK as head of R&D and joined us as a Senior Advisor. After five years at the Gates Foundation as CSO, he was recruited to Takeda Pharmaceuticals as he wanted to help the pharmaceutical industry grow in Japan and globally. This was a promise that Tachi made to his father, and he always kept his promises. We were fortunate to “re-recruit” Tachi as a Venture Partner when he retired from Takeda.
As a Venture Partner with Frazier Life Sciences, he was instrumental in helping Frazier build and launch multiple companies, including Arcutis Biotherapeutics (ARQT), HilleVax, Passage Bio (PASG), Phathom Pharmaceuticals (PHAT), Scout Bio, and many other companies both inside and outside of Frazier.
As a friend and partner, he pushed all of us to focus on the patient and to explore new scientific and therapeutic areas. For example, he pushed Frazier to be more aggressive in gene therapy given his long association with Jim Wilson, Ph.D., and this resulted in the formation of Passage and Scout.
Some of our favorite memories of Tachi are traveling with him to Japan. He would always get up at 5 a.m., despite the 8-hour time change, to get on the treadmill prior to joining us at breakfast. He insisted on taking us out to the local markets for Japanese street food and on building in a couple of hours for shopping at Uniqlo for t-shirts and boxers. He was relentless in his energy, and we all did our best to keep up with him.
Tachi also had an amazing commitment to Leslie and his family, and we remember the beautiful speech that his daughter made when he received the Order of the Rising Sun award from Japan. His family grounded and reminded him that he was foremost a husband, dad, and grandfather. He was always interested in our children’s progression and lives.
Tachi was also a great friend and mentor to all of us. He helped us understand the importance of contributing to the broader global community as he did with numerous organizations including the Clinton Foundation, the Gates Foundation, and the University of Michigan. Yes, he did bleed big blue! All of us learned something new every time we interacted with him, and we will miss his daily dose of insight, wisdom, and humor.
His legacy will forever live on in our hearts and in the wonderful medicines that he has helped us create through our portfolio companies.