Founded in 2008, Biotech Profiles LLC was the vision of Russell R. Smestad. A career biotechnology and business development executive, Mr. Smestad has had prominent roles in building three major biotech companies focused on gene expression (DNA vaccines and transgenic plants) and gene silencing (RNAi) technologies. In addition, since 2010 he has been president of Stratatech Corporation, a regenerative medicine company focused on developing regenerative skin therapies.
Prior to founding Biotech Profiles, he was president of Mirus Bio Corporation. Over a five year span he guided the transformation of Mirus from its original gene therapy focus to become an acknowledged leader in RNA interference. The success of the company’s enabling siRNA delivery platform, Dynamic PolyConjugates™, led to the company’s acquisition by Roche for $125 million in September 2008.
Prior to joining Mirus, he was vice president of corporate development for PowderJect Vaccines Inc., a unit of PowderJect Pharmaceuticals PLC, where he was responsible for strategic planning and business development. During his six year tenure, PowderJect grew from a privately held startup entity to become the 6th largest vaccine company in the world, ultimately being sold in mid-2003 to Chiron Corporation for $878 million. From 1982 to 1997, Mr. Smestad held a variety of executive management positions in predecessor organizations to PowderJect Vaccines (Auragen Inc., Agracetus Inc. and Cetus Madison Inc.), including serving for six years as co-general manager of Agracetus and president of Auragen. This era culminated in the 1996 sale of Agracetus’ plant science division to Monsanto Company for $150 million.
The genesis for the BiotechProfiles concept derives from Mr. Smestad’s personal experiences in strategically and operationally guiding biotechnology companies over a career spanning nearly 30 years. In the local Madison market, various parties historically produced simple print directories of companies or created a list of links to company websites, but these tools provided limited transparency and lacked the in-depth data needed to support decision making and provide useful networking and self-help tools for biotech entrepreneurs. As local companies grew and their visibility expanded, mergers and acquisitions often reversed this trend and made them nearly invisible as their image was managed by a corporate parent a continent away. Surprisingly, even people within the local biotech community often couldn’t readily identify the life science employers with over 250 employees each. And they certainly didn’t know who the management team was or who to contact for professional networking assistance.
To address these issues and provide greater transparency, visibility and industry networking capabilities at the local level, BiotechProfiles was born. Mr. Smestad continues to maintain the website as a public service in support of the local biotech industry.