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So You Want to Start a Biotech Company?

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In 1990, I founded ABS Inc. and continue to own and run ABS along with an excellent team. Either out of curiosity, an entrepreneurial itch, or a desire to pursue a passionate scientific goal, many scientists ask me how I did it and how they might do it. These blog postings will be an attempt to answer those questions. This blog will also introduce ABS to you as a company striving to create value for the scientific community. It will provide a close hand look at how we operate and continue to evolve. It is my hope that you will learn from our mistakes and choices or at least find the journey interesting.

By way of introduction, I received a Ph.D. in Biological Sciences from the University of Pittsburgh, and then worked as a Pharmacology Research Associate at the National Institutes of Health. After leaving NIH, I took a position at ICI Americas, which later became AstraZeneca. There, I led the biochemistry team that worked on the discovery of the multi-billion dollar antipsychotic drug Seroquel®.

On the business side, while at ICI, I started and ran a multi-state real estate business. Using funds from that business and my 401 K, I founded ABS, which continues to grow as a successful business. I also founded Biosome, Inc., which was not successful. Both experiences have taught me valuable lessons, which I am happy to share with you.

This blog could be about starting and running any company. Because I have spent much of my working life running ABS, I will illustrate what I have learned by describing the journey that I continue to travel with ABS. This includes the wrong turns, rainbow chases, and long miles. The goal is to provide you with useful information for your career whether you pursue a similar path. The posting will be both a how-to and a description of the challenges, risks, and rewards of running a company.

In these blogs, I will lead you through the path that I followed. Other paths that might offer better options for you will also be considered. I do not pretend to have all, or even most of the answers, but I hope that you will benefit from my experiences.

The next posting will focus on one of the most important questions: Why would anyone want to do this? I will give you my answer and describe several other answers that I commonly observe. There is no pretense that my reasons should be the same as yours, but I expect that there is enough commonality in answers that the discussion will be useful. I will also discuss the consequences that follow from how one answers this question.

Subsequent blogs will discuss the rewards, costs, difficult choices, and risks that one faces starting and leading a business. Topics such as funding choices, business plans and strategies, and how we run ABS will be discussed. Enough detail will be provided so that you can see how we do things and the rationale for the choices that we have made. As I have learned and continue to learn much from others, links to useful references will also be provided.

Postings will generally be made on a weekly basis and sometimes more frequently. Some will be written from a more high-level strategic viewpoint. Others will post specific actionable information such as where to find money and essential business operations knowledge.

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