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Who is Howard Krein? Biden’s son-in-law advised campaign on coronavirus while investing in Covid-19 startups

This could pose conflict-of-interest concerns for a Biden administration as Krein has been advising the former VP's campaign on its coronavirus response as well as investing in health care startups that offer solutions to the pandemic
(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s son-in-law, Howard Krein, could pose conflict-of-interest concerns for a Biden administration as he has been advising the former vice president's campaign on its coronavirus response as well as running a special initiative to invest in health care startups that offer solutions to the pandemic.

Krein's investment firm, StartUp Health, unveiled a new coronavirus initiative back in March, when the Covid-19 outbreak grew exponentially in the United States. The initiative in question solicited pitches from entrepreneurs with products that would help curb the health crisis in the country. The next month Krein was listed among those participating in daily calls to brief Biden on health policy during the pandemic. Meanwhile, StartUp Health announced its intention to invest $1 million across 10 startups researching on coronavirus applications within the span of a month, Politico reported. 

“StartUp Health is putting the full support of its platform and network behind building a post-Covid world that uses technology and entrepreneurial ingenuity to improve health outcomes,” the firm said at the time. If simultaneously venturing into COVID-19 solutions as well as advising his father-in-law's campaign does not pose conflict-of-interest concerns for a Biden administration, it could surely make for Krein seeming like he was profiting off the former's policies. 

Krein, 53, a Philadelphia-based surgeon got into venture investing shortly after he began dating Biden’s daughter, Ashley, in 2010. Krein came on as StartUp Health’s chief medical officer in 2011 and since then it has invested in more than 300 health care businesses. Its website features the term “moonshot” to describe its investment goals which reminds one of Biden’s own signature Cancer Moonshot initiative. Krein was once described as a White House adviser and the firm enjoyed close ties to the Obama administration.

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden celebrates with his supporters after declaring victory at an election-night rally at the University of South Carolina Volleyball Center on February 29, 2020 in Columbia, South Carolina. (Getty Images)

“I have little doubt that the relationship to Joe Biden, particularly if he becomes president, would attract the interest of some investors,” said Avik Roy, founder of Roy Healthcare Research, an investment research firm, and a former adviser to the presidential campaigns of Sens. Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Marco Rubio (R-FL).

A Biden campaign official contacted by Politico confirmed that although Krein does not have a formal role with the campaign, he did brief Biden on coronavirus from his extensive knowledge and experience treating patients. Meanwhile, tracking potential conflicts of interest could become a daunting task should Biden win the presidency, given the increasing portfolio of StartUp Health’s investments. One of the topmost concerns was that Krein would obtain an inside track and end up influencing the policymakers’ decision regarding the response to the virus. Also, Biden appointees could make policies favorable to companies in StartUp Health’s portfolio which could spark further investigations, according to ethicists. The campaign official refused to officially release a statement on the potential conflict of interest and instead pointed to the former vice president’s 2019 statement to the outlet saying, "I have never discussed, with my son or my brother or with anyone else, anything having to do with their businesses. Period. And what I will do is the same thing we did in our administration. There will be an absolute wall between personal and private [business interests] and the government.”