#SDBNJune Event Panelist Profile: Ethan Perlstein

Ethan Perlstein
Ethan Perlstein, Founder at Perlstein Lab

In advance of our June 24th Reinventing California Biotech event, we’re profiling our panelists here on the blog so that we can forego the stuffy PowerPoint presentations/introductions and spend more time discussing the issues. See our first entry below on Ethan Perlstein and track all panelists profiles using the #SDBNJune tag (also the hashtag for the event).
Over the course of the last decade first as a graduate student at Harvard and then as a postdoc at Princeton, Dr. Ethan Perlstein developed an approach to studying complex drugs with simple model organisms called evolutionary pharmacology. Last year Dr. Perlstein left academia in the face of “postdocalypse,” declared scientific independence, and decided to apply evolutionary pharmacology to orphan/rare diseases. His journey of professional reinvention includes forays into tweeting, blogging, crowdfunding, and consulting. It culminates in Perlstein Lab, a SF-based biotech startup and public benefit corporation that is focused on precision orphan drug discovery.
Tell us about yourself:
I’m the founder and CEO of Perlstein Lab, a SF-based biotech startup and public benefit corporation focused on precision orphan disease drug discovery. Before becoming an indie scientist/biotech entrepreneur, I trained for over a decade in academia as a grad student and postdoc.
What gets you up in the morning?
Perlstein Lab’s mission to bring precision medicine to orphan disease patients get me up every morning. And it’s one of the last things I think about before going to sleep every night.
What’s your current job and how did you get involved with it?
Perlstein Lab is the phoenix that rose out of the ashes of my failed academic job bid. My professional reinvention was made possible by Twitter. I found out about the rare disease community from patient advocates on Twitter, and I also met my investors on Twitter. (That’s the subject of another post!)
How and why did you choose your current location?
I’ve wanted to move to the Bay Area for some time. It’s the #1 biocluster in the country, if not the world.
How does Southern/Northern California life science business differ from other areas?
I was a graduate student in Boston/Cambridge, the #2 biocluster. From what I can tell, it’s a great place to do science. But after 15 years in the Northeast, I was done with old man winter. I’m looking forward to learning more about the SoCal scene!
Describe your company’s funding and business model:
Perlstein Lab is funded by a mix of strategic investors, angels and family offices, all of whom have a personal interest or connection to rare diseases. Our business model is hybrid: we will either internally develop or out-license orphan drug candidates.
What’s been the most important quality for achieving success in your case?
Targeted persistence. Although people talk about a rare disease bubble, seed financing is still hard to come by. Investors are rare; rare disease patients/advocates are by definition rare; the intersection of the two is exceedingly rare.
What’s working well with your current life science business?
We didn’t have to struggle to come up with product-market fit. That means we can focus nearly all of our energies on the science and discovery process.
What’s been the hardest part about your current job?
The hardest part is waiting for reality to catch up to expectations.
What’s been the proudest moment in your career?
Proving that Twitter can be a meritocracy.
How do you see biotech business models evolving over the next 10 years?
I’m personally invested in organizing a rare disease moonshot, so I’d like to see more startups coalesce around rare disease drug discovery in collaboration with patient groups. I’d also like to see successful biotech entrepreneurs exit and pursue independent science.
If you could give one piece of advice to other life science entrepreneurs, what would it be?
Join Twitter and start tweeting.
At the event June 24th, what topics are you interested in discussing and what types of people are you looking to meet?
I’d like to discuss novel early-stage funding models, precision medicine and rare diseases. I’m hoping to meet inspiring biotech entrepreneurs and rare disease advocates.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you for inviting me to participate!

Register for the June 24th event!