To the fictional emergency room staff on the Showtime TV series “Nurse Jackie,” the computerized drug dispenser is a source of mischief and dramatic suspense, often referred to as “the Pyxis” or “Pill-o-Matic,” and sometimes as “Not a candy machine!”
But to Ron Taylor, the Pyxis Medstation is a real-life San Diego success story.
In 1987, Taylor co-founded Pyxis with investor Tim Wollaeger. As Pyxis chairman and CEO, Taylor grew the medical technology startup into a public company with more than 1,500 employees. In 1996, Cardinal Health (NYSE: CAH) acquired Pyxis in a corporate buyout that was just short of a $1 billion deal. In 2009, Cardinal included Pyxis in a business spinout that became CareFusion (NYSE: CFN), the San Diego-based medical device company with 15,000 employees and sales of $3.6 billion in fiscal 2012.
Today, Taylor took the stage at a luncheon in La Jolla to be officially inducted into San Diego’s Entrepreneur Hall of Fame, an honor bestowed by Connect, the local nonprofit group that has supported technology and entrepreneurship in San Diego since 1985.
Wollaeger, who has been managing director of Sanderling Ventures in San Diego since 2002, said he provided startup funding for Pyxis with Hybritech CEO Howard “Ted” Greene after they sold Hybritech to Eli Lilly & Co. for $413 million in 1986. Wollaeger was Hybritech’s CFO, and Taylor had served as Hybritech’s vice president of operations since 1981.
The early years were not easy, and Pyxis initially struggled to raise capital from venture capital firms, Wolleager said. Many VCs rebuffed Taylor, saying that making computerized pill dispensers was a crazy idea.
“Pyxis was not successful for the first three years, from 1987 to 1990,” Wollaeger told the audience. “If it had been written off, nobody would have noticed. But Ron listened to the marketplace, and modified his strategy until it worked.”
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