General partner, U.S. Venture Partners of Menlo Park, Calif.
Q. Your Silicon Valley venture fund has invested in dozens of successful biotech companies over the years. What will it take for Scripps Research Institute to have successful spinoffs from its planned Florida campus?
The advantage Scripps has in San Diego is that for a couple of decades prior to Scripps spinning out technology, there was a management team and service provider infrastructure _ accountants and lawyers _ to create companies. So one could back management teams. It takes more than just outstanding research to create an environment that permits companies to be developed locally.
So will venture capital be interested in the research and technology at Scripps Florida? Absolutely. But will we pull them out and put them in San Francisco, Boston or San Diego, where we can hire people local to get the ball rolling? Yes.
Q. You were raised in Tampa and went to medical school at the University of Florida. What will it take to get Florida on the map as a biotech state?
It won't be like falling off a log. Palm Beach County is probably better than other locations in the state because it has the population, and there might actually be some culture. So people would look more favorably on it than trying to start something in Gainesville or Tallahassee, for instance. They've been trying their darndest in Gainesville (to create a biotech community). And they've had moderate success. But, boy, trying to get me or any of my brethren on an airplane to Gainesville is very difficult.
Q. Is it usual for technology to be moved to more "startup friendly" environments?
We're going to close on a deal soon that uses technology from Cal Tech (California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif.) and technology from Yale. The company will be started in the San Francisco Bay area because the executives we want live here.
Yale wanted to do it at New Haven Tech Park, but the executives said, "We have other things to do in the world. We don't want to move to New Haven."
So my bet would be that, since there is no heritage of biotech in Florida, it will be a while before new companies will be started there, focused in biotech. On the other hand, the only way to get it going is to start.
_ KRIS HUNDLEY, Times staff writer