Johns Hopkins launches new biotech entrepreneurship program

Here’s a bleak number for you:  95 percent of biopharmaceutical companies fail. According to Johns Hopkins’ Lynn Johnson Langer, that’s in part because, traditionally, “business people and scientists didn’t speak each other’s language. They didn’t always respect each other.”

Langer knew about the conflict better than most:  she started out as a microbiologist at the NIH, before transitioning into the business world. Working as an organizational development consultant for biotech businesses in crisis, she remembers ” looking at the two sides—business and science—and thinking, If they just understood each other better,” she says. Many of the biotechs were started by scientists with brilliant ideas, but no training in how to run a business. And, too often, they weren’t able to admit they needed help with the finance side of things until it was too late: “These brilliant scientists have to learn that to be successful, they can’t let their egos get in the way,”  Langer told the Johns Hopkins Gazette. “They need to learn to step back and let others offer them guidance and advice. And that’s just what we’re teaching them.”

The “we” Langer mentions is Johns Hopkins’ new Master’s in Biotechnology Enterprise and Entrepreneurship program, which Langer helped establish this year.  The class is aimed at current biotech professionals who are hoping to establish a career outside the lab, or for people seeking to start a new biotech enterprise. Courses include seminars on biotechnology (of course), but also ethical/legal/regulatory affairs, marketing, and management.

And, of course, finance. But after polling a crew of successful biotech industry leaders, Langer came to the conclusion that the students int he program needed an understanding of the vocabulary and basic functions of finance, but they didn’t need to be experts — “That’s why you hire a CFO,” she said. Instead, according to Langer, “This degree is focused on what people need to do and know to create and sustain biotech businesses. That piece about how to be able to grow and keep it going is key.”

The program, which launched in January, can be completed either entirely online or through both online and in-person courses at Johns Hopkins’ Montgomery County Campus; read more about it here.