Tuesday, June 21, 2005

There’s Gold in Them Thar Flatirons

Larry Gold that is…

I would like to consider this the first in a series focusing upon those serial biopharma-entrepreneurs whose impact extends well beyond the borders of Colorado. Dr. Larry Gold, Ph.D. not only fits the mold rather he is whom the mold was cast.

Dr. Gold arrived at the University Colorado, Boulder in the department of Molecular, Cell and Developmental (MCDB) Biology in 1970. In 1981 Dr. Gold co-founded Synergen where he served as co-director of research. Dr. Gold concurrently served as MCDB department chair from 1988 to 1992. Synergen was later acquired by then rival Amgen in 1994 for $262MM.

You can say the early 90’s was a busy time in the Gold lab, for it was in 1991 when his SELEX Process (Systematic Evolution of Ligands by Exponential Enrichment) invention was claimed. The SELEX technology allows for rapidly selecting proprietary reagents (high-affinity aptamers) by screening pools of nucleic acids for particular functionality. The seminal Intellectual Property portfolio covering this invention has formed the foundation for the entire aptamer field. Ultimately, revenues from the commercialized SELEX technology contributed to the construction of the new MCDB building on the CU Boulder campus.

What followed next was the founding of NeXagen to further develop the aptamer technology as therapeutic and diagnostic agents. NeXagen soon became NeXstar Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ: NXTR) where Dr. Gold served as both Chief Scientific Officer and Chair of the Board of Directors. NeXstar was built out into a fully integrated pharmaceutical company with international operations and in 1999 Gilead Sciences acquired the company in a transaction valued at approximately $550MM.

Without skipping a beat Dr. Gold founded SomaLogic, Inc. in late 1999 to continue to build out the photoaptamer, PhotoSELEX and array technologies. SomaLogic has successfully raised ample capital in numerous rounds, the company received Frost & Sullivan’s Technology Innovation Award in Biomarkers and, recently formed a collaboration with Quest Diagnostics to develop clinical diagnostic applications using the aptamer technology. Pair all this with a growing patent estate currently containing 160 issued patents, and Dr. Gold’s track record of success, and only good things are expected to emerge from SomaLogic.

During his prestigious career, Dr. Gold has received many citations including the CU Distinguished Lectureship Award, the National Institutes of Health Merit Award, the Career Development Award, and the Chiron Prize for Biotechnology. In addition, Dr. Gold has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences since 1993 and the National Academy of Sciences since 1995. Dr. Gold also serves on the board of directors of CompleGen and on the scientific advisory boards of Archemix and Nuevolution.

All that he touches turns to gold but perhaps Dr. Gold’s greatest asset has been his accessibility and his efforts to give back to the life science community, this particular trait truly distinguishes and differentiates him. An emerging life science cluster requires the participation of those who have experienced success, access to Dr. Gold’s wealth of experience and expertise is certain to aid the growth of the Rocky Mountain life sciences.

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