Patrick Soon-Shiong, chairman, president and CEO of VivoRx Inc., didn't start out to form a company when he began working to develop improved treatments for diabetes. However, he soon concluded that to develop the encapsulated cell therapy required resources beyond those available in academia, including the diverse human skills needed to develop the concept.

"I was almost forced out of academia and into the corporate world," he said. Once having made the decision, he didn't want to form "yet another biotech company" without taking steps to mitigate the risk. In considering what course to follow, Soon-Shiong looked at the characteristics of successful companies such as Amgen Inc. and Genentech Inc., and decided that one reason for their success was that they pursued disease states where there were clear unmet needs and technologies whose value was clearly understood. VivoRx (Santa Monica, Calif.) would do the same.

Physiological materials

He also concluded that competing companies working on encapsulated devices were trying to fit a square peg into a round hole: taking synthetic membranes developed for other purposes and trying to make them biocompatible. Instead, he would focus on more physiological materials such as polysaccharides and carbohydrates, and more importantly, he would avoid the use of organic solvents in the production process.