We at Xconomy are excited to announce that we are honoring Ivor Royston, co-founder of Hybritech and Idec Pharmaceuticals, with our 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award—the first ever awarded in San Diego. The award recognizes Royston’s wide-ranging career as an academic physician, entrepreneur, investor, and life sciences executive. His foundational role in starting Hybritech, San Diego’s first biotech, puts him at the start of the creation of what is today one of the most vibrant life sciences ecosystems. He will receive his award and give a talk reflecting on his career at our inaugural Xconomy Awards San Diego gala on May 29 in La Jolla. Here’s more on Royston.
Since joining the UC San Diego faculty in the late 1970s, Royston has reinvented himself every decade or so. Throughout that journey, he has played a major role in establishing the region as a life science powerhouse, through his scientific research, business-building, investments, and his championing of fellow entrepreneurs.
During one of his first reinventions, from academic physician to entrepreneur and cofounder of Hybritech, Royston built a team of scientists and executives who would go on to create dozens of biotechs in San Diego—helping to launch the region’s biotech industry, for which it is now globally recognized. David Hale, a former Hybritech CEO who now runs Hale BioPharma Ventures, an investment firm, estimates Hybritech alumni have gone on to create some 200 companies.
But no one could have predicted Hybritech would have that effect when it was founded in 1978.
“Ivor took a big risk when he decided to help create Hybritech and to become involved because at the time that just wasn’t something that was done very often, and academics put their careers in jeopardy by associating with a commercial company,” Hale says.
Royston first found his passion for oncology research at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where he studied the role of viruses in cervical cancer.
“I was driven to try to find a cure for cancer, or to make one of the people who could make a breakthrough in cancer,” he said.
Royston’s research into viral causes of cancer earned him a postdoctoral position at Stanford University. Following that, he spent about three years at the National Institutes of Health researching the cause of mononucleosis (the Epstein-Barr virus), then returned to Stanford to finish his oncology fellowship.
It was there that he was first exposed to the technology that would underpin Hybritech—monoclonal antibodies. Around that time, Genentech, the world’s first biotech, launched in South San Francisco with funding from Silicon Valley venture firm Kleiner Perkins (then Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers).
Royston joined the UC San Diego faculty in 1977. The following year, he and Howard Birndorf, a lab technician he first met at Stanford, launched Hybritech to scale production of monoclonal antibodies for use in diagnostics and therapeutics.
Royston quickly encountered pushback. … Next Page »