Coming from a family of doctors, Arjun Goyal anticipated a life in clinical medicine in his home country of Australia. But when his education directed him to a year of research at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, where he participated in malaria vaccine development for the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics, a new door opened for Arjun. “It was my first exposure to research,” he says. “It fascinated me that the test tube in my hand could hold a new cure or the next new therapy for controlling a disease.”
Placing himself at crossroads of commerce and science
Excited by the possibilities, Arjun sought “a better understanding of how to go from lab work to medical product” by taking an internship (after fulfilling his medical residency in Sydney, Australia) with Celtic Therapeutics in New York City. One of the first biotechnology PE groups, Celtic, Arjun says, “marries a scientific eye for identifying precise populations in which therapies are effective, with a commercial appetite for successful drugs that need more time and money to prove their potential.” As part of a four-person clinical development team, Arjun was responsible for a broad range of scientific and business responsibilities, including the review of scientific literature and therapeutic guidelines, the analysis of compound licensing opportunities, the structuring of efficient clinical trials, and the creation of viable financial models.
Given the mix of duties, an MBA, Arjun says, “was always at the back of my mind.” HBS stood out for two reasons. “It has a great network of alumni and professors in the biotech and pharmaceutical fields – both in world-leading corporations and start-ups,” says Arjun. “And HBS has a reputation for developing leaders in their respective fields. It’s truly global, and in entrepreneurship, it’s not just limited to software.”
In business, in action, in the i-lab
Arjun has already applied the HBS network and resources to his own enterprise, Foresight Pharmaceuticals, a start-up dedicated to “personalized medicine”: the exploration of biomarkers and molecular signatures to develop precisely targeted treatments specific to appropriate patient populations. Through the Entrepreneurship Club, Arjun was introduced to Louis Levy, HBS MBA 2014, who has assumed responsibilities for operations. Together, they applied for and secured a six-month residency at the Harvard Innovation Lab (Harvard i-lab). When asked if the environment of mutual encouragement and advice is helpful, Arjun does not hesitate. “One hundred percent,” he says. “For guidance, help with pitches, sharing ideas – it’s enormously useful and satisfying.” Arjun and Louis have already pitched Foresight to HBS Business Angels, an alumni investment group, and have high hopes for the annual New Venture Competition.
“On a commercial level,” Arjun explains, “Foresight is innovative in the way it applies new technology to treatment designs and in its interest in developing under-exploited compounds being researched in Australia. But on a personal level, it’s about the medicine. I still think of myself as a doctor. I started Foresight and I’m here at HBS because I’m most passionate about developing new therapies for disease.”