Building Life Science Businesses - Harvard Business School MBA Program

Building Life Science Businesses

Course Number 1665

Professor of Management Practice Richard Hamermesh
Fall; Q1; 1.5 credits
14 Sessions
Exam or paper

Building Life Science Businesses was formerly half of the 3 credit course, Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital in Healthcare (1660).

Career Focus

The course is intended primarily for students who have a career interest in either leading or investing in life science ventures (biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and medical devices). It will also be of interest to students who plan to work in Business Development functions either in or outside the healthcare sector.

Educational Objectives

Healthcare represents a staggering 17% of US GDP and is also one of the major areas of new venture investing. In recent years, healthcare has represented between 25 to 30% percent of all venture capital funding. Of that amount, about half of the funding has been for biotechnology and medical device ventures with the other half for Healthcare IT and Services, the subject of the companion course, Entrepreneurship in Healthcare IT and Services(EHIS). In life sciences, because of the role of universities and other research institutions in producing new intellectual property and because of the financial and distribution power of the major publicly traded healthcare companies, new ventures often include licensing and joint venturing arrangements. The course thus has the following learning objectives:

  1. To be able to assess the viability of proposed new biopharma and device ventures.
  2. To become familiar with the major sources of intellectual property for life science ventures.
  3. To learn the basic elements of licensing and joint venture agreements.
  4. To understand the major institutional and strategic investors in creating new life science ventures and their goals and motivations.
  5. To understand what the business development function is in both large and small life science companies.

Course Content and Organization

The course is organized into five modules, with the underlying notion that before a life science venture can be evaluated, students need to understand the requirements of both financial and strategic investors.

Module I: Introduction: Becoming a Player
This module introduces the unique requirements of life science ventures.

Module II: Securing Intellectual Property
Virtually all life science ventures are built around intellectual property (IP). In this module, we examine how IP is secured with particular emphasis on licensing IP from university labs.

Module III: Managing the Regulatory Environment
Gaining regulatory, i.e. FDA, approval is a critical requirement for healthcare ventures. This module looks closely at the clinical trials and regulatory process.

Module IV: Managing Business Development
Business Development is an essential function in virtually all life science organizations. We will study what business development is supposed to accomplish and how it differs depending on the company's objectives.

Module V: Financing the Venture
This module focuses on the recurring issues life science entrepreneurs face in financing their ventures. We will examine the full range of financing sources and their respective pros and cons.

The course will be case-based. Most case protagonists will be attending when their case is taught.