Randal J. Kirk, worth $2.2 billion, is one of the only billionaires to make his money from biotech. He may just be the best biotech investor ever says Robert Langreth at Forbes. In these days of niche drugs, unknown names like Kirk’s is where the money’s at with the major drugmakers struggling with the crippling FDA and HIPAA rules.
Kirk’s strategy is to buy obscure companies at a very low price, stay the course until a drug gets to the market–without getting attached to any one plan, and sell at a good price to drug companies that need product.
What makes this is interesting is that Kirk is now investing in a new synthetic biology company Intrexon will be far bigger than anything he has done before. It is working on better protein-based drugs, gene therapy, industrial enzymes, and ag-biotech. Almost nobody has heard of it and its lead scientist Thomas Reed. Kirk calls Reed “the Henry Ford of DNA” and says the new company will someday be the Google of the life sciences.
Smart investors alert–gene therapy is soon to heat up. Similar to space travel, even without physical applications to its fame, synthetic biology is the technology behind gene sequencing and its potential is limitless. Today’s biotech industry makes modest genetic tweaks to living cells—adding or deleting single genes so bacteria will produce insulin or corn will resist pests, for example. Synthetic biology aims to make much more radical changes and reengineer living cells from the ground up. One goal is to make protein drugs far more cheaply and efficiently than is possible today. Another is to transform living cells into tiny molecular factories to make everything from gasoline to construction materials. Some scientists even want to create entire new life forms from scratch.
Like Forbes says it–Changing the world is tough but Kirk has found a way of getting rich simply by trying.