One highlight of Xconomy’s September 23 forum, “How to Build a Life Sciences Company,” was my closing chat with MIT Institute Professor and Xconomist Robert Langer and Polaris Venture Partners managing partner Terry McGuire, who have teamed on a long list of local biotech startups. Now, courtesy of the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, which hosted and recorded the event, we’re pleased to post a series of video outtakes (below) in which the legendary scientist-entrepreneur and the investor-guru share their insights about how to find and fund big ideas, and how entrepreneurs and investors can form successful long-term partnerships.
As Ryan observed, speakers at the forum offered seven or eight equally valid paths for getting a new life sciences company off the ground, from the big-pharma-funding route to the non-profit route. But Langer and McGuire have perhaps the simplest and most unusual model of all. When Langer has an idea for a company, he just gives McGuire a phone call—as he has now done at least 14 times, starting with Advanced Inhalation Research, a Cambridge, MA-based developer of inhaled drug formulas that was purchased by Alkermes in 1999 for more than $100 million in stock, and extending to Living Proof (formerly Andora), another Cambridge startup focused on advanced polymers for hair-care products.
My chat with Langer and McGuire lasted about 45 minutes, enough time to cover seven big questions, with a few minutes left over for three questions from audience members. We’ve divided up the videos below by question. You can watch the videos one at a time by paging through the story, or you can jump directly to the segments that interest you by clicking on this list:
1. Bob calls Terry with a startup idea. What do you actually talk about?
2. Why do you like to work together so much?
3. How far do you go to keep investors in the loop?
4. How do the respective roles of the founding scientist and the venture capitalist change over time?
5. If you didn’t have this established partnership, what would be your strategies for starting new companies in today’s climate?
6. What are the essential ingredients of a promising life sciences startup?
7. Are some startup ideas so important for humanity that the founders shouldn’t seek private investment?
8. Do you have a consistent agreement about how your companies will handle intellectual property?
9. Why aren’t there more Bob Langers?
10. What makes Boston such a good place for life-sciences startups?
A special thank-you to Novartis for recording the chat, and to Richard Freierman for editing the video down into watchable chunks.
Question 1. Bob calls Terry with a startup idea. What do you actually talk about?