Billionaire on a bike: how coronavirus helped professor at Harvard turn $ 5 million into $ 870 million
US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — A Harvard teacher, calling himself a scientist to the marrow, became a billionaire because he believed in a young biotech company ten years ago and invested $ 5 million in it. During the pandemic, this company was the first to test the vaccine against COVID-19 in humans, and its share is now estimated at $ 870 million.
Ten years ago, a biology professor at Harvard University and serial entrepreneur Timothy Springer saw potential in a young company from Cambridge, Massachusetts, and became one of its first investors. First of all, thanks to this deal, this professor has now become a billionaire.
This week, Moderna shares, contrary to the general market downtrend, rose 12%. This made Springer a billionaire: according to Forbes, his fortune reached $ 1 billion. Springer owns a 3.5% stake in Moderna and a stake in three other smaller biotech startups.
“My philosophy is to invest in what you understand. And I’m a scientist to the marrow of bones and I like to discover new things, ”says Springer, 72. – Many scientists create startups, but only a few achieve success. I am an active investor and an extremely strict scientist. Therefore, the average level of hitting the target is very high.”
Moderna announced Tuesday that the US FDA regulator has expedited the review of its COVID-19 vaccine sample. Moderna was the first company to start testing its vaccines in humans – they launched March 16 in Seattle. Since the World Health Organization announced a pandemic two months ago, the company’s stock has tripled. As a result of this dizzying rally in Moderna, another billionaire appeared – the company’s CEO Stefan Bansel, whose fortune is estimated at $ 2.1 billion.
In addition to investing in biotechnology, Springer teaches biochemistry and molecular pharmacology at Harvard Medical School and advises post-doctoral students in his own laboratory. He has been working at Harvard since 1977. During studies of the immune system at the University, Springer studied cell adhesion molecules, and his discoveries led to the development of several antibody-based drugs approved by the FDA.
The scientist’s first entrepreneurial experience was the creation of the biotechnology company LeukoSite in 1993. Five years later, she entered the stock market, and a year later she was bought by Millennium Pharmaceuticals. The deal amounted to $ 635 million, of which Springer received $ 100 million in the form of buyer’s shares.
In 2010, the scientist became one of the founders of Moderna, investing about $ 5 million in the company. Ten years later, his share is worth approximately $ 870 million. Long before the advent of COVID-19, Springer began to ponder how the company’s revolutionary technology based on the use of matrix RNA, may be useful in developing new vaccines.
“We quickly realized that technology could come in handy in preparation for future pandemics,” the researcher explains. – That is why we invested in trials on people with different types of flu – with varieties of it that are not characteristic of epidemics, but with which a full-blown pandemic can begin. All this time we took into account the likelihood of such a scenario.”
Moderna is Springer’s most famous company in its portfolio. But he is also a leading investor in three smaller public biotech startups: Selecta Biosciences, Scholar Rock, and Morphic Therapeutic. For Scholar Rock and Morphic Therapeutic, the researcher was also one of the founders and contributed to their development through his research activities at Harvard.
The newfound wealth on the Springer was not reflected in any way – he still rides a bicycle every day to work and personally conducts research in his laboratory. According to the investor, the only luxury for him is his own home: “I love gardening and collecting stones. I don’t need money, because I live in science.”
In addition, he launches the earned funds for the benefit of the scientific community. In 2017, Springer donated $ 10 million to create the Institute for Protein Innovation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to researching protein compounds and helping entrepreneurs realize business ideas in the biotechnology industry.
“I like to invest actively, but I also really like to actively engage in charity work,” says Springer. – With the foundation of this organization, I not only sought to help create reliable antibodies that scientists from around the world can use in their biological research, but also wanted to give them a new technology, thanks to which there will be much more discoveries. In educational institutions, it is extremely difficult to engage in such areas of science.”
Harvard’s teacher is not the only member of the billionaire club whose fortune has grown amid the fight against COVID-19. Since March 11, when WHO announced a pandemic, several other medical businessmen have also become richer in billions of dollars. Most likely, while the public froze in anticipation of new successes in the fight against the virus, the market for biotechnological developments will only grow.
For his part, Springer is optimistic that the industry will grow rapidly even after the pandemic. “Before, everyone considered us villains who want too much for medicine,” he says. – But now it has become clear to everyone that biotechnology will always come to the rescue. Our sphere gives the world many new drugs, and the belief in what we are doing is fully justified.”
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