The billionaire biotech dreamer
Name: Dietmar Hopp
Title: Principal, dievini Hopp BioTech Holding
Some individuals are influential when it comes to steering the biotech ship. Very few can afford to build a flotilla of their own and set an ambitious course aimed at bolstering a country's economy. And that's what sets Dietmar Hopp apart in the biotech world.
The SAP founder and billionaire has invested a considerable part of his personal fortune in a bevy of biotech companies--dievini Hopp lists 15--always drawn by cutting-edge ideas and big, big goals. Hopp is not in any way shortsighted about his investment strategy, either. He often goes in early, providing ample sums to build a company and explore new realms.
The roster of Hopp-backed companies includes CureVac, AC Immune in Switzerland, Immatics, Agennix and Wilex. But Hopp's intent was never to double his SAP fortune. His strategic vision was to shore up a teetering biotech industry in Germany, building a group of stable, growing companies that can create top salaries and bolster the economy.
It hasn't all been clear sailing and fun discussions about new technology. Wilex's lead cancer drug went down in flames last fall, unable to come up with the right kind of survival data. But Hopp is determined to make a difference. Weeks after Wilex's setback he made a $104 million investment in CureVac, which is looking to build on Dendreon's ($DNDN) basic scientific approach, multiplying antigens to stimulate a far more vigorous assault on castration-resistant prostate cancer.
Just the Phase IIb part of this program will take until 2017 to get the proper readout on survival, demonstrating a level of perseverance that makes the average venture investor look like a day trader.
Hopp is all about keeping his companies well funded. In 2010 he was the big buyer when Agennix raised $104 million, which doubled his stake in the public company from 29% to 60%. And the company CFO made it clear that Hopp wasn't interested in buying the company, just getting it through to the data.
A billionaire in any country has a rare ability to focus political attention on encouraging investments in new technology. Germany's future in biotech has been helped significantly by Hopp's determination and extraordinarily deep pockets.
-- John Carroll (email | Twitter)