Twist of Fate—How A Band of VCs Recruited a Scientific Dream Team to Control Our Cells’ Destinies

4/11/08Follow @bbuderi

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it has been relatively easy to attract other top scientists, both to the scientific advisory board—which includes Langer and Ram Sasisekharan from MIT, as well as former Merck exec Shapiro—and to the company itself. “We’ve added a ton of people, a lot of whom we haven’t announced formally,” Nashat says. “You kind of see the gravitational pull. It was very, very exciting.”

The one big personnel chore remaining, he says, is to identify the right CEO to lead the company. The board has been working on this for months, and Nashat expects the process will likely take several more months. To date, the company has been spread out across the Seattle, Boston, Palo Alto, and San Diego turfs of the five founders. Going forward, Nashat says, “It will definitely have an East and a West Coast presence. [But] I think that we’re probably going to put the nerve center wherever we find a great CEO.”

But even presuming there’s one official headquarters, that CEO will have to preside over a large, far-flung collaborative venture—and that goes against the grain of how young biotech companies are traditionally run, Nashat says. Typically, he says, biotechs are built around an invention or insight from one person or lab. A massive collaboration could be hard to keep together, he acknowledges.

But of course the Fate principles, who forecast some big announcements from the firm in the not-too-distant future, have an answer to all this. “Our formal hypothesis of the space is it’s too big, it’s too complex a biology, for there to be like one trick, one target, one pathway, one thing,” says Nashat. “You need to create a collective wisdom.” At the same time, he concedes, “It’s a big snowball. It’ll make a mess if you don’t throw it right.”

Bob is Xconomy's founder and editor in chief. You can e-mail him at bbuderi@xconomy.com, call him at 617.500.5926. Follow @bbuderi

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