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May 2, 2019 – What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been: Truckin’ thru Academia, Big Pharma, Start-up, and Investor Spheres – Nolan Sigal, MD

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How do we end up doing the work that we do? And why?  How do we navigate the myriad of opportunities, challenges, and variables? It seems that one’s path can be both planned and unplanned. Being in an environment where one is surrounded by bright and curious minds, as well as new and traditional technologies, can boggle the mind. How do we choose among the myriad possibilities available? How is one’s career impacted when there is ample hunger, risk, movement, and symbiosis nearby? While education surely opens doors, it is still difficult, particularly at the beginning of one’s career, to predict a path.

Since 1980, when Dr. Sigal completed his studies, his dynamic work path has included academia, big pharma, and biotech start-ups. What did he learn along the way? How did Nolan end up on the “Dark Side” of the biotech world? 

Join us as Dr. Sigal shares case studies and experiences, including: (1) moving from academia to industry: (2) discovering the mechanism of action of cyclosporine and FK506 at Merck; (3) the rise and fall of Pharmacopeia; (4) roller coaster rides at various biotech companies; and (5) moving to the investment space. Nolan will share his observations and insights, including remarkable highs and discouraging lows – and how opportunities and decisions, in fact, shape who we are, and subsequent choices we make.

Images are licensed under Creative Commons License.


Nolan Sigal, MD, PhD is a serial entrepreneur who has spent over 35 years in the academic, pharmaceutical, and biotechnology communities. Currently, he is a partner in the biotech venture firm, Satter Investment Management. As CEO and founder of Tunitas Therapeutics, he led the development of a novel technology for the generation of fusion proteins that target novel inhibitory pathways on allergic cells, and took its first candidate into clinical development. Prior to Tunitas, Dr. Sigal’s biotechnology posts included President of Trellis Bioscience, EVP of R&D, CSO at Cytokinetics (CYTK), and SVP, Research at Pharmacopeia (PCOP).

At Trellis, Nolan transformed the company from a platform tools company to a discover-stage company focused on novel antibody therapeutics. At Cytokinetics, Nolan built a robust discovery engine that has produced several clinical candidates in oncology and cardiovascular disease, the most advanced of which is now in Phase III clinical trials. Dr. Sigal was one of the founders of Pharmacopeia, along with Jack Chabala, a former colleague from Merck. Together, they assembled a dynamic research organization, building the company from 12 to 550 people, completing successful private and public financing rounds, entering into eight corporate collaborations, and developing an internal discovery pipeline of novel clinical candidates.

Prior to joining Pharmacopeia, Nolan held several management positions with Merck & Company, including Executive Director of Immunology Research. Following his training at Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania, he was on the faculty at the University of Toronto before moving to Merck. Throughout his career, Nolan has continued to publish in top-tier, peer-reviewed journals and has well over 100 publications to his name. Before joining Satter Management, he served as an ad hoc adviser to several venture capital firms and biotechnology companies, providing expertise in a wide variety of therapeutic areas.