Biodesign Lunch Notes

Guest: Gordon Saul , Executive Director of Biodesign 

Mr . Saul has over 20 years startup and business development experience in the medical device and pharmaceutical areas. Prior to joining Stanford’s Program in Biodesign, Gordon was an Executive-in-Residence at InterWest Partners, a leading Silicon Valley venture capital firm. At InterWest, Gordon served as a founding or interim executive in over a dozen medical device and drug companies in the InterWest portfolio. 

Prior to joining InterWest, he was a co-founder, board member and senior vice president of business development and marketing for PowderJect Pharmaceuticals, a publicly traded drug delivery company acquired by Chiron Corporation in 2003. Prior to PowderJect, he held business development roles at ALZA Corporation and Advanced Cardiovascular Systems, a division of Guidant Corp. He has also worked in Japan in the financial services industry and in management consulting for The Boston Consulting Group. 

Gordon received an A.B. in engineering sciences from Dartmouth College and an M.B.A. from Stanford University.


If you were to build a wish list of business skills for a technically skilled person, what would you want?

Big companies often have bandwidth to take in ‘less skilled’ people and train them in the skills that are needed. Smaller companies have less bandwidth to do that. Might want to try go for a bigger company first to get that skillset


How many of your career changes were based on personal decisions, how many were driven by you vs by someone else?

A lot of it was self driven, self directed. Conscious choice to make those leaps. Going into VC was about controlling schedule to spend more time with family


What is your vision for Biodesign?

The fellows program works great. We need to be better at getting from bench to bedside – getting startups up and going and to a stage where they can go to an incubator or be bought

VC doesn’t do as much early stage stuff, but there are incubators who help move the startups along


Why are incubators more viable than the traditional VC route?

Can better amortize the business costs – space, setting up as a corporation, etc. Easier to kill stuff in an incubator when things don’t go right. Also medical space is very capital intensive – incubators can be really useful for capital needs

When the timing is right, don’t eat, don’t sleep, just go for it! Who knows when that opportunity will come again?

Want to work in healthcare, but hear that you need an MD. Is that true? What are different roles

Don’t have to get the MD yourself – you can partner with someone to provide the medical experience. The degree can be a differentiator, but it doesn’t have to be – practical experience is useful. VC world – its hierarchical. But companies – show a work ethic etc


How do you get into VC?

Many different routes (one example of someone going straight from business school to VC) connections might be a way, but it can be a windy road

Residency – NOT a detriment for people who want to go into startups/VC – can be very valuable to have that experience to understand the clinics


Perceptions of different stakeholders

Just have to be aware of what kind of biases we bring to the table (PhDs with research orientation) and keep that in mind


How to find people (co-founders, CEO, etc)

Utilize networks, local companies (see if there’s any talent who is interested in moving or knows other people)


Bio-Law Lunch Notes

Hank Greely Lunch 041213

  • Background:
    • Two clerk positions including clerk with Potter Stewart
    • Carter admin- in defense and energy
    • Wife is a doctor- interest in science
    • Law profession:
      • Hired to be oil and gas law professor (b/c of DOE gas law).  Energy law course. 
      • Always had an interest in health law.
      • Decided b/n health law and energy.  Picked health law (during Clinton era).  Pulled into genetics b/c of genome
      • 1997: started working on cloning, stem cells
      • Human, non human chimeras
      • 2002:  neuroscience
      • Goal: he want to do more neuroscience and keep doing genetics
      • Hank’s job: He look for topics he thinks are interesting and will have some social impact beyond the medical world in which the technology looks plausible within the next 20 years. 
        • How will it affect society? 
        • What are the potential problems? 
        • How can we prevent them?
        • Hank’s topics now
          • Implications of human genome sequencing
          • Noninvasive prenatal genomic testing. Through blood draw.  Allows for paternal test.  No one recommends diagnostics for this technology yet b/c the high false positive rate. Currently: only tests for annueploidy.  Current frame: do women really know the implications of the tests that they get from blood draws?    
          • Big project: The end of sex.  In 20-40 years, among people with good health coverage, most people will do in vitro fertilization. Preimplantation genomic testing.   
            • Reason: 1 cell DNA test to test for genetic disorders in the future.
            • 8 cell embryo- do test
            • IVF-$50k bare bones.  Unpleasant.  1% side effects.  Risk is all on the women’s side. 
            • Future: get skin cells, make induced pluripotent stem cells, and then turn them into embryos.  Already done in mice: from mouse sperm and mouse egg cells
            • Insurance companies will really like this.  Prevent getting very sick kids. 
  • Neuroscience project:
    • fMRI studies on lie detection. 
    • fMRI studies on pain.  Recent publication in New England Yale.  Shawn Macky (Stanford) has done experiments on real patients with back pains.
  • Neuroscience: Alzheimer’s prediction.  PET scan can predict for amyloid plaque buildup.  
  • De-extinction: bringing back extinct species.  Genome editing.  Take a species you have a good genome sequence (from past last 100,000 years) of, find a current species that is similar to that species and make a cell line for that similar species.  Genome editing and turn the cell line into an animal.  Likely to happen in 10-20 years.  NIH won’t fund this but other companies will fund this research.  $5-$10M to make a few individuals.
    • May 31 Law School conference on De-extinction 
    • Where does Hank look for topics?
      • Science, Nature, other science websites
      • Sometimes people come to Hank with topics
      • Benchside ethics consult (bioethics center Mildred Cho)-  confidential consult about bioethics.  Learned about some of his topics there.   
      • How do you find out about things?
        • Ask people about what they do.  Know some of the vocab.   
        • Read news articles in Science, Nature.  A few of the technical programs.
        • Harder for scientists to think about the social implications of science.   
        • AAAS fellowships. 
        • What is the value of law school?
          • Top ¼ law schools are worth it.  Teach more broadly.  More interested in policy and theory.  Exactly 2 years and 9 months and no post docs. 
          • Stanford law school interested in people with science backgrounds (10% of Stanford class).  More work for and represent biotech companies. 
          • Good for policy.
          • Patent law reform thoughts?
            • Probably not a big impact.
            • Computer (e.g. patent a lot and frequently, many techs can be reverse engineered) v. bio side (use that through the entire term).
            • Act that went through was on the few things the 2 sides could agree on
            • Supreme court: Myriad genetics case
              • Are genes patentable? 
              • Court will likely knock the myriad patents out.  But most likely not a big impact. 
              • Patent litigation boomed last few years
              • 7k genes patented.  Only Myriad is the only company in which this is an issue. 
              • Most patents don’t cover next gen. sequencing.  15 year monopoly- Myriad has built up an extensive database and outcomes of women with breast cancer.  (e.g. this mutation à breast cancer or not).  Strong point going forward will be the database of trade secret information. 
              • Law profession and science profession similarities.  Both require un-self interested skepticism.  (e.g. finding the holes in the client’s story)  


Healthcare Policy Lunch Notes

CHIPS Policy Lunch – 1.24.2013


Rebecca Slayton, PhD

  • PhD in Chemistry from Harvard
  • Worked in Sacramento on state-level science/health policy
  • Now a Public Policy Lecturer here at Stanford

Horacio Murillo, MD, PhD

  • MD/PhD (Radiology) from Mayo Clinic
  • Became interested in health policy while at the Mayo Clinic
  • AAAS policy fellow
  • Now a radiologist at Sutter Medical Group in Sacramento, CA

 Thomas Lee, PhD

  • PhD in EE
  • AAAS policy fellow, worked in D.C. as a congressional staffer
  • After AAAS fellow, worked at McKinsey for 1.5 years (“gain an MBA without going to school”)
  • Now a Strategic Marketing Manager at Enphase Energy


  • 3 worlds (Business, Policy, Science) rarely interact in meaningful ways
    • There is a real need for people that can facilitate communication between these three fields
    • Scientists crafting science policy is very important
      • Need for scientists to interact and communicate with the general public
      • Scientists traditionally thought as being separate from policy/public, not really the case anymore
      • Historically, scientists available to the media have been powerful in crafting science policy
      • How Science Policy Actually Happens
        • 3 P’s of legislation – Politics, Power, Policy (in that order) – must be considered when crafting policy
          • Politics – who is in power, who has influence
          • Process – when bills are proposed, committee procedure, etc.
          • Policy – the actual nuts and bolts
  • Takes a long time to pass legislation
  • In academia, you succeed by claiming credit for your ideas. In politics, you succeed by other (powerful) people talking about your ideas (as their own).
  • Fellowships/Programs for Scientists interested in Science Policy
    • AAAS fellowships
    • State-level programs
    • National Academies (Science, Engineering, Medicine)
    • Discipline Societies
    • Advice for Students interested in a policy experience
      • Start looking for opportunities now – find out what the application requires and how to become a competitive candidate
      • Don’t be afraid to step away from a traditional path
      • A policy experience does not preclude a future academic career – it has the potential to enrich your ideas and perspective
      • One should be able to form relationships, be able to talk about work to people from a variety of backgrounds
      • Need to be flexible in working with people with different agendas
      • While working in politics, change your definition of accomplishment/success
        • In academia: Experiment, Results, Paper (or thesis)
        • In policy: advancing the idea, keeping the ball moving forward, meetings

Biotech Academia / Entrepreneurship Lunch Notes

On October 30, CHIPS hosted a small group lunch with Professor Michael Snyder and Professor Edgar Engleman, two renowned professors who balance academia with entrepreneurship.

Dr. Engleman is Professor of Pathology and Medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine, where he oversees the Stanford Blood Center and his own immunology research group. An editor of numerous scientific journals and the inventor of multiple patented technologies, Dr. Engleman has authored more than 250 publications in medical and scientific journals and has trained more than 200 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. He has also co-founded a number of biopharmaceutical companies including Cetus Immune, Genelabs, National Medical Audit and Dendreon. He is the lead inventor of the technology for Provenge, Dendreon’s cancer vaccine, which was shown to extend life for patients with metastatic prostate cancer.

Dr. Snyder is the Chair of Genetics and the Director of the Center of Genomics and Personalized Medicine. He is a leader in the field of functional genomics and proteomics. His laboratory study was the first to perform a large-scale functional genomics project in any organism, and currently carries out a variety of projects in the areas of genomics and proteomics both in yeast and humans. These include the large-scale analysis of proteins using protein microarrays and the global mapping of the binding sites of chromosomal proteins. His laboratory built the first proteome chip for any organism and the first high resolution tiling array for the entire human genome. Dr. Snyder has published over 200 manuscripts and is editor of a number of journals including Functional and Integrative Genomics, Molecular and Cellular Proteomics, Proteimics, Drug Discovery Today, and PloS Genetics and Genes and Development. He sits on many international advisory boards and was a Co-founder of Protometrix, Inc., a protein microarray company that was purchased by Invitrogen in 2004, and a new company, Affomix, Inc.

There were a couple questions around how these professors balance academia with starting companies.  Dr. Snyder explained that the two are complementary.  Academia is the discovery process while the company is the execution of that idea. The company actually enhances his research.  Dr. Engleman added that he enjoys the discovery process and working with students, so he prefers the balance over moving into industry.  And it helps that Stanford is a special place where entrepreneurship is encouraged.

Early on in the conversation, Dr. Engleman remarked that funding is getting more difficult, and several questions revolved around the issues of starting a company in today’s economic landscape.  Both professors agreed that companies today need to do more robust studies.  As for specific advice, Dr. Snyder recommended linking up with a business or senior academic person with experience to help launch a business. Dr. Engleman gave suggestions for fundraising options such as the SPARK program at Stanford, SBIR grans, and running inexpensive tests with a reference lab.

The lasting advice that the professors left us with was that experience helps.  They agreed that they learned a lot from every company they started, and a lot of the lessons they imparted on us during this lunch came from trying it out themselves.  Definitely an inspiration to follow!

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