Steven Burrill, chief executive officer of Burrill & Company, offers advice to Idea to IPO students.
The Center for BioEntrepreneurship (CBE) celebrated one of UCSF's most unique courses, Idea to IPO…and Beyond, on March 14 in the atrium of Genentech Hall. Course founders, CBE faculty and past and present students gathered to mark the course's fifth anniversary this year.
Idea to IPO aims to give students insight into the biotechnology industry the tools to create viable business plans and launch start-ups. UCSF graduate students and professor Charles Craik launched the course in 2001, together with renowned life science venture capitalist and merchant banker, G. Steven Burrill, chief executive officer of Burrill & Company.
"When we started Idea to IPO, we didn't exactly know where the course would be in five years' time," Burrill said at the celebration. "But we were committed to making the experience real-world. I've brought my industry friends into this environment to share their experiences with the students. It's a unique way to teach and I think it has worked."
More than 250 UCSF faculty and students have taken Idea to IPO so far. The course has generated three dozen new business plans. All have been presented for potential funding to venture capitalists. Course participants have gone on to start a number of biotech companies, including Catalyst Biosciences and Five Prime Therapeutics, and take leadership positions in existing ones.
CBE Director Katherine T. Moortgat praised Idea to IPO's success and highlighted Burrill's unique contribution. "UCSF is extremely fortunate to benefit from Steve's commitment to this course and his support of entrepreneurship at UCSF," she said.
"Steve has delivered an unparalleled opportunity for UCSF faculty and trainees to learn how to bring a discovery from the lab to market. He has also brought top industry leaders to our campus to help convey the complexities and share their experiences."
An Incubator for New Biotech
For the course, several guest speakers discuss topics ranging from corporate formation to FDA regulation. For Winter 2005, several first-time guest lecturers, including Gordon "Rusty" Johnson of WR Hambrecht & Co. and Nicola Campbell of Sofinnova Ventures, visited to speak about raising capital and the process of IPOs.
Burrill specifically cited the speakers' contributions. "I'm pleased to see the guest lecture format combined with team-based start-up projects continues to attract highly committed students," Burrill said. "The live team pitches of their newly created business in front of a select panel of venture capitalists who, by the way, bring their checkbooks to these sessions, provide students with unique insight into commercializing their ideas through a start-up."
Building and managing a start-up life science company needs this kind of insight, said Barry Selick, chief executive officer of Threshold Pharmaceuticals and partner at Sofinnova.
"Given the role that UCSF faculty and students have played in the creation of the biotechnology industry, the Idea to IPO class is a great means by which to perpetuate that legacy," Selick said at the event. "There are more Genentechs and Chirons waiting to be created. What better way to do that than by exposing the next generation of Herb Boyers and Bill Rutters to the insight of experienced biotech scientists, entrepreneurs, and investors?"
Idea to IPO project ideas usually came from one or two students within assigned teams. For the past two years, the course has taken a new approach: "We wanted to open up the creativity inherent in our community," says Craik, "so we now get together before the first official class and hold an informal idea-generation session."
More than 20 unique project concepts were proposed this year. The students themselves clustered into teams around eight ideas ranging from anti-cancer therapies to cognitive assessment software.
"It's very interesting to observe the diversity, in terms of disciplines, reflected in each team. We've got a biophysicist working with a cardiologist, a vaccine specialist paired with a financial manager, not unlike what you'd see in a group of founders launching a start-up," adds Craik.
Each year, each team delivers a pitch to a panel of Bay Area venture capitalists. Pratik Shah of Thomas McNerney & Partners, who served as a judge on one of two panels, said, "Sitting on the panel for these student pitches was fun, and made all the more interesting by how 'real' the team's ideas are."
Other venture capitalist panelists included Caley Castelein of Thomas Weisel Ventures, Shelley Chu of Flagship Ventures, Giovanni Ferrara and Tania Fernandez of Burrill & Company, and Chen Yu of Vivo Ventures..
Past and Present Students Pay Tribute
Several past students joined the celebration to share their experiences and describe how Idea to IPO jump-started their entrepreneurial careers.
Pierre Beaurang, of the original class in 2001, related how his career with Five Prime Therapeutics came directly out of being in the Idea to IPO course. Class of 2003 Hisaaki Kawakatsu discussed a translational research collaboration between a basic research and clinical laboratory initiated through the course's business plan. The collaboration is currently leading to potential new therapies for lung injury.
Jemma Richards, post-doc at the Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center, said, "I enjoyed the I2IPO course…I feel I've gained invaluable insight into the biotech industry, some good hands-on experience in areas I wasn't previously exposed to, and I've made some new friends along the way."
Center for BioEntrepreneurship