Nancy T. Chang, Ph.D., founded Tanox, a biopharmaceutical company, in 1986 while on faculty at the Baylor College of Medicine. The company developed Xolair, an anti-inflammatory asthma treatment, that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved for use in 2003. Tanox was acquired by Genentech in 2007 for $919 million.
Chang will speak during the Sept. 17 plenary session of the two-day Indiana University Innovation and Commercialization Conference. She will provide her perspective about developing research from her laboratory into a multibillion-dollar enterprise. She generously shared her time to answer a few questions about her success.
Crimson Catalyst: What were the origins of your interest in research on allergies and HIV?
Nancy T. Chang: My family has always suffered from allergies. Growing up, we had a very hard time dealing with them, and there wasn’t anything on the market that was helpful for us. Regarding HIV, it began with scientific curiosity — and then the AIDS pandemic broke out and was running rampant through the country, so I wanted to help those who were being hurt by the horrible disease.
CC: How would you describe the process of commercializing your research into Xolair?
NTC: It was very exciting! Seeing lab work turn into a commercially viable drug is an amazing experience. Seeing your idea prove itself as something that makes people’s lives better is the best feeling.
CC: You founded Tanox in 1986; Xolair was approved by the U.S. FDA in June 2003. What are your strongest memories or emotions of that 17-year span?
NTC: I remember the excitement I felt when I first saw the data come back that showed our drug was working in patients. I will never forget that day.
CC: How has the world of research translation and commercialization changed since your experiences with Xolair and Tanox?
NTC: The speed with which we communicate and technological advancements have really helped speed up the process.
CC: You also have a strong background as an angel investor. What do you see as the most important lesson entrepreneurs must master in order to successfully interest an angel investor?
NTC: Young entrepreneurs need to be able to explain their story to nonscientists in a way that they can understand and that excites them. Entrepreneurs also need to know their data inside and out.
CC: What are your hopes for the future of biopharmaceuticals?
NTC: To see new breakthroughs that cure diseases that are currently untreatable. Cancer and Alzheimer’s are a couple for which I think we are going to see some major breakthroughs soon.
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