The DNA of the American Dream

How would it feel to make medical history?

By helping in the creation of Myriad Genetics – the world’s first genomics company. Co-founders and first investors felt how exhilarating it can be when they became the first genomics company to make one of the greatest discoveries of the 20th century, the discovery of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Spencer Trask enabled its network to participate directly and continuously in the American Dream of launching a new business and to make medical history resulting in a profound positive impact on society. The legacy formed and the financial returns achieved were a bonus.

“There is no more exciting story in medical history.”

James Watson – Nobel Laureate and co-discoverer of DNA

This was done with Biogen founder and Nobel Prize winner Dr. Walter Gilbert selected Spencer Trask to fund his quest to unlock the secrets of human genetic code because we shared his entrepreneurial DNA. Another example was The Immune Response Corporation founded by Jonas Salk and Kevin Kimberlin which was one of the biotech’s early leaders for developing an AIDS vaccine. This helped us understand the immense potential of genomics long before the term became Wall Street jargon.

Myraid Genetics was formed with a $10-million Spencer Trask private equity investment. Two years later, the company’s scientists made front-page news across the globe with their discovery of the breast cancer gene. As the New England Journal of Medicine2 suggested, “…this discovery is the most exciting breakthrough in modern times.” Corporate giants including Eli Lilly, Oracle, Ciba-Geigy, Bayer, Schering Plough and Hitachi invested $500 million in partnerships with the company. After going public in 1995, Myraid’s market capitalization climbed to $2 billion in November 2000 resulting in a return over 50 times Spencer Trask investors’ first round.

Today, Myriad Genetics continues to make headlines. In a joint venture with Hitachi and Oracle Corporation, Myriad is creating the largest database in the world, the human “proteome.” The database will collect and analyze data on the personal medical histories of millions of people which will help them predict and prevent disease. For example, the analysis will decipher how proteins interact in the human body – with the hope of leading to the cause, and ultimately the prevention, of virtually all human disease.

“We look forward to participating in this remarkable collaboration.”

Larry Ellison, CEO, Oracle

The success of Myriad Genetics clearly demonstrates that the timing of an investment is critical in order to experience this type of ‘return’. Not only financially, but emotionally.