WSJ On Serial Academic Entrepreneurs

WSJ writer Rebecca Buckman has an interesting piece on the special relationship that exists between a leading MIT Scientist (Robert Langer) and a leading venture capitalist (Terry McGuire). The two have launched 13 firms together over the past 15 years.

In looking at the continuum of campus entrepreneurs, PhD’s like Robert Langer are at the extreme — high technical/academic knowledge. While few of us will ever achieve ‘superstar’ scientist status, their work offers great opportunities for those of us closer to the campus mean (MBAs, undergrads, social scientists, research assistants, etc.). As the article referenced notes, McGuire ‘cold called’ Langer one day after reading about his research.

From the WSJ article,

Together, Messrs. McGuire and Langer have launched 13 companies over the past 15 years and become a model for other venture capitalists scrambling to commercialize new drug and medical-device research. Dr. Langer, 59 years old, holds more than 600 patents and supplies the science; Mr. McGuire, 52, fine-tunes the business. Some of Mr. McGuire’s work with Mr. Langer was described in a 2005 Harvard Business School case study called, “The Langer Lab: Commercializing Science.”

Other serial “academic entrepreneurs” have teamed up with VCs to launch bioscience companies. They include Harvard professor George Whitesides, who helped start biotech giant Genzyme Corp. and drug company Theravance Inc., and Stanford ophthalmologist Mark Blumenkranz, whose research helped launch OptiMedica Corp., which is developing new technology to treat eye disease. Dr. Blumenkranz joined with venture capitalist Brook Byers on OptiMedica, and “we’re working on another project together,” says Mr. Byers, a partner at venture firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. But few venture capitalists have been as successful as Mr. McGuire in cultivating one scientist as a source of deals.


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