30 May From Rock DJ to Scientist to Entrepreneur: Michael Gilman on The Long Run Podcast
Currently (2018) Michael Gilman is the CEO of two biotech startups – Arrakis Therapeutics, a company attempting to make small molecule drugs against RNA targets; and Obsidian Therapeutics, a company seeking to take the next step in CAR-T immunotherapy, by finding the right balance between dosing and the side effects of the treatment.
However, this is the final part of the story. With Luke Timmerman (founder of the Timmerman report), Michael Gilman dived deep into his memories to reveal his upbringings and his personal path towards serial biotech entrepreneurship.
Click here to hear the podcast the content of which we have summarized below.
Before Michael Gilman started his entrepreneurial life
His natural curiosity for science led him to MIT for a major in Physics. Soon after, he found Biology more interesting and decided to switch. At the time, it was the early days of molecular biology. In the lab next door, David Baltimore won the Nobel Prize for reverse transcriptase. In addition to being a “lab rat” he also hosted a Rock ‘n’ Roll show for the campus radio station.
For graduate school he decided to work with Bruce Ames, inventor of the very well-known method for identifying compounds mutagenic for DNA, at Berkeley. It turned out to be a hardcore enzymology lab and he went through a painful old school biochemistry training. Retrospectively, this served him well in the following years.
Back to Boston in 1983 for a postdoc with Bob Weinberg who discovered the first human oncogene, Michael got excited about cancer biology and signal transduction. Finally, in 1986 he led his own group at cold spring harbor.
The move out of academia
A job offer from Ariad Pharmaceuticals made him realize that there is a different way to do science. However, running a drug discovery program was more difficult than running an academic lab. In the following 7 years, Michael got fired twice for insubordination, sued for violating a non-competition clause and finally laid off at the age of 50 during Biogen’s downsizing.
Entrepreneur at the age of 50 years
At this point, he started to meet with local VCs. An early introduction to Atlas paved the way to founding and selling two startups – Stromedix and Padlock Therapeutics, in 2012.
For him, life is a collection of moments. Therefore he wants to work in a place that is fun and interesting, while solving hard and important problems.
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