Michael Gilman was so close to retiring two years ago.
His company, Padlock Therapeutics, was just acquired by Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE: BMY), and he was on his last week on the job. But at a board meeting, he saw an old friend, Jennifer Petter—then Russ Petter—and asked, what are you working on these days?
Petter, a longtime friend and former colleague at Biogen (NASDAQ: BIIB), had formed a startup called Arrakis Therapeutics. For more than a year, she was its only employee; Arrakis’s headquarters was wherever she and her laptop were. She wanted to target RNA molecules with small molecule drugs, something most people found to be a “crazy, stupid idea,” Gilman said.
“That is just the nuttiest thing I’ve ever heard,” Gilman said. But he was intrigued and took it seriously. Another former Biogen colleague, Jim Barsoum, was involved. Gilman and Petter had dinner as they’d had many times throughout their friendship, and Gilman got more information. “That’s cool, but I really want to retire,” he said.
But he couldn’t help himself. He took a board seat, got a bit closer. And fast forward to 2017, and Gilman became Arrakis’s CEO. Now, he’s the one that’s been pitching investors on drugging RNA and getting sideways looks about the effort; Arrakis is out looking to raise money again. “You only need one or two believers,” Gilman said.
These are the types of stories that were shared last week at Xconomy’s “Boston’s Life Science Disruptors,” a series of candid chats with biotech entrepreneurs about the companies they’ve formed. Today, we’re sharing a small taste of the festivities through a photo slideshow (see above) and some anecdotal tidbits. But first, some thank-yous to everyone who made the event possible:
Thanks to our attendees and speakers from Arrakis, Beam Therapeutics, and Celsius Therapeutics. Thanks also to our event host, the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, and our sponsors Fish & Richardson and Scientist.com. And a hat tip to Paradiso Photography for the pictures.
With that, hope you enjoy the photos, and see you next time!