Campus Life

Biotech Venture Capital Pioneer Visits Our Campus

by Gene Thomas

Professor Moira Gunn, and the BioBusiness Association of the School of Management welcomed famed Biotech Venture Capitalist and industry pioneer Steve Burrill as a guest speaker to their most recent evening event.

We asked Professor Gunn to give us a sense of who Steve Burrill is, and what he represents to the biotech industry. Her replies provide some striking, and inspirational insights that Steve Burrill delivered, and how important his presence is on our campus.

1. A few words about who Steve Burrill is for those of us who are not tuned in to the Biotech Industry?

Steve Burrill is the Founder and CEO of Burrill & Company, specializing in Life Sciences Venture Capital, Private Equity, Mechant Banking and Media. This year, 2011, marks the 25th anniversary of the Burrill Report, the preeminent annual report on the biotech industry. Among his other credentials is that he is Chairman of the Foundation for the National Medals of Science and Technology, and the World Council for Ethical Standards.

2. Does he have an ongoing relationship with our School?

Steve has guest lectured previously in the School of Management and has just joined the Advisory Board to the new Professional Science Master’s Degree (PSM) in Biotechnology in the College of Arts & Sciences. (He'll be on the School of Management’s advisory board , which is currently in formation).

3. What were a few of the key points that he made in his talk?

Of the many surprising points which Steve made, here are a few:

  1. despite the state of the economy, $60 Billion was raised in biotechnology venture capital in the past 12 months, a record level, a key fact for our MBA students focusing on venture capital and finance.
  2. Still, 76% of all the prescriptions written in the United States in the past year were written for generics. This means that most drugs we take are beyond their patent life, and are no longer significantly profitable for the original inventors or investors.
  3. Consumers cite cost of drugs as the major challenge with healthcare costs, yet only 10% of the money spent on healthcare is spent on pharmaceuticals.
  4. Science moves faster than expected; Business moves more slowly than expected.
  5. Data is the fastest growing sector in the world. This is of special interest to our students in the Master of Information Systems (MSIS) program, which has fostered a increasing focus on the biotech industry.

4. What were your personal observations about Steve’s significance?

There are many admirable points to the 40 year investment career that Steve has had. He has been involved with nearly every major start-up in Silicon Valley and more recently, in the biotechnology industry. The fact that he has a degree in business does not stop him from learning and understanding cutting-edge science - and perhaps most significantly, having a vision for bringing it to reality. In the field of biotechnology, business is the vehicle by which science moves from the laboratory to the bedside, to the field, and beyond. Steve has a grasp of the many disciplines which are required.

5. Has, or is it likely that, anything specific — such as internships or jobs — will come out of this event for our students?

Burrill & Co has listed several biotech internships in the venture capital and investment areas - I've already been asked to provide recommendations!

6. Anything else that I haven't asked that you think would be worth mentioning?

One of the final words of wisdom Steve left the audience with went beyond biotechnology and applies to everyone -- when you want to build something, make something new, take yourself in a new direction, you can't expect to do it on a few hours on a weekend, or at night. You've got to carve out time in the middle of the day, during the normal week. Investing in your future deserves your best attention and energy.