Lecture addresses biotech business issues

Those hoping to make their first million in the biotech industry may have struck gold Tuesday night as the words of Stelios Papadopoulos sunk into them. Dispensing both lessons and motivation, and punctuating his presentation with short guidelines on how to succeed in this field, Papadopoulos combined the pep talk of a self-help guru with the practical advice of a businessman.

Papadopoulos, the vice chairman of SG Cowen & Co., spoke in the Anlyan Center to a crowd assembled of soon-to-be entrepreneurs, doctors, graduate students and even the stray undergraduate. The talk, “What Makes a Good Biotech Business Model in Today’s Environment,” focused on the attributes, as Papadopoulos sees them, that are integral to running a successful biotechnology firm in today’s economic climate.

Papadopoulos said one of the biggest pitfalls in the biotech industry is the lack of wisdom inherent in basing future decisions solely on current market conditions. He stressed the need for foresight in determining what to focus on in running a business.

One would have to be a “complete fool to formulate based on what the market wants today,” Papadopoulos said. He pointed out the importance of timing in putting forth business ideas.

“You cannot be too late; you cannot be too early,” he said.

Papadopoulos said early in his business career, he and his partners attempted to put the human genome in the context of its function, as opposed to the more popular approach at that time of simply determining the genetic sequence. He said the idea of contextual genetics, as he put forth, was an example of an idea that was too early. Often, it is up to the leaders and innovators to determine when an idea is ripe for the marketplace, he said.

“The company’s only as good as the people at the bench,” he said. “Long-term goals are good for cocktail-party conversation.”

Papadopoulos expressed his lifelong desire to hire the best people in their fields and the best leadership for his endeavours.

“Do not settle for a lukewarm, reasonably good guy … You [have to] go for broke,” Papadopoulos said.

Amy Enders, the director of communications of Connecticut United for Research Excellence was one of the principal coordinators of the talk.

“Stelios is a leader in the biotech and investment banking world, and we’re very excited to have him come to town and talk about the leading issues of today,” she said.

Some in attendance said they responded positively to the talk. Joshua Steinerman, a resident at Yale-New Haven Hospital, said he came because of his interest in the general subject of the talk.

“I’m very keen on learning about emerging trends that will affect not only the bioscience community but also the public health and economic infrastructure as a whole,” he said. “As a physician, I have a drive to understand the context by which pharmaceuticals are born, grow and live among my patients and millions of Americans.”

Papadopoulos concluded his talk with four things necessary, as he sees it, to successful biotech enterprise: “thoughtfulness, balance, debate and measured risk-taking.”

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