Latterell Thinking: Ken Widder, Latterell Venture Partners’ Man in San Diego, on Early Stage Life Sciences Investing

8/13/10Follow @bvbigelow

Before he joined San Francisco-based Latterell Venture Partners almost four years ago, Ken Widder says the VC venture firm was trying to recruit a partner willing to work full time in Latterell’s Embarcadero Center headquarters.

“I’ve known Pat for 24 years,” Widder says, referring to Pat Latterell, the namesake founder who started the life sciences VC firm in 2001. “He asked me if I would move to San Francisco, but he knew I was pretty integrated in the community down here.”

As understatements go, saying that Widder is part of San Diego’s life science community must rank right up there with Francis Crick’s dry observation that the structure of DNA is “of considerable biological interest.”

Widder has been ensconced in San Diego since 1981, shortly after finishing his medical residency in pathology at the Duke University Medical Center. With Drew Senyei, his roommate and medical school lab partner at Northwestern University, Widder started Molecular Biosystems in San Diego, took the company public in 1983 (more on that later), and served as MBI’s chairman and CEO for nearly 18 years. The company was initially focused on developing antisense-based drugs, converted the technology to diagnostic probes and sold it to Abbott Labs, and eventually developed the first two ultrasound contrast agents to be approved in the U.S.

The last company he founded, San Diego-based Sytera, merged in 2009 with Sirion Therapeutics of Tampa, FL. Switzerland’s Alcon Laboratories acquired the combined company’s assets earlier this year for an estimated $130 million.

Ken Widder and Susan Golding

Ken Widder and Susan Golding

Altogether, the San Diego resident founded seven life science companies, holds 30 patents or patent applications, and has authored or co-authored 25 scientific papers. Along the way, Widder was involved from the outset in the formation of Biocom (San Diego’s regional nonprofit industry group), and was appointed by San Diego Mayor Susan Golding as chairman of both the San Diego Regional Technology Alliance and San Diego Technology Council.

Since Widder joined Latterell, the VC firm has made investments … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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