Kinsella Redux: Charting a Way Back for Life Sciences Startups

9/27/12Follow @bvbigelow

As a man of many talents, Avalon Ventures’ Kevin Kinsella has a tendency to apply a term from one of his fields of interests in a conversation about another.

Kinsella’s career as a biotech venture investor has spanned nearly 30 years and more than 100 financings. These include early stage bets on San Francisco-based Onyx Pharmaceuticals and Aurora Biosciences (now Cambridge, MA-based Vertex Pharmaceuticals) that produced the billion-dollar drugs sorafenib (Nexavar) for treating kidney cancer and telaprevir (Incivek) for hepatitis C.

He’s also had a lifelong love for Broadway theater and is now a Broadway League member (and Tony Awards voter). Kinsella and his wife Tamara were the biggest individual investors in the hit Broadway musical Jersey Boys. They also are among the Jesus Christ Superstar producers who were nominated in May for a 2012 Tony for Best Revival of a Musical.

I’m pleased to note that on October 4, a week from today at the Apella event space at Alexandria Center, the San Diego Xconomist will be taking a star turn at Xconomy’s next big event in New York: Reinventing Biotech’s Business Model for the Big Apple. So when I checked in recently for an update of Kinsella’s showstopper critique of Big Pharma business practices, I was half-expecting him to take a metaphorical detour through Manhattan’s theater district.

Instead, he asked me if I knew what véraison means.

It’s a French viticulture term, and refers to the changing color of grapes as they begin to ripen. As the proud owner of a 12-acre winery in Sonoma County (a purchase made possible by the Kinsellas’ successful investment in Jersey Boys), Kinsella said véraison came to mind because the ideas he expounded last year on overcoming the difficult climate for building biotech companies are now ripening. What that means, he says, is that Big Pharma is finally listening.

“The pharma companies have in unison realized that their actions have jointly and severally done a lot to destroy the … 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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  • http://www.facebook.com/david.edick David Edick Jr

    This is a strong article well worth reading. Thank you. Much of San Diego thinks things are going great in San Diego’s biotech/pharma/life sciences sector. In fact the sector is a mess.