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MIT Technology Review

  • Christoph Westphal


    Christoph Westphal invents startups. He restlessly searches for scientific advances he can transform into practical technologies. After grabbing an MD and PhD at Harvard in a mere six years, Westphal did a two-year stint at consultancy McKinsey, where he designed business development strategies for high-tech firms. He jumped to Waltham, MA-based Polaris Venture Partners in 2000 and is now a general partner advising five startups, one of which he cofounded. Westphal brings more than cash to the table: just ask the people at MIT spinoff Mimeon, in Cambridge, MA. Robert Langer, a prolific MIT inventor, says Mimeon was launched in 2001 after Westphal asked him “penetrating questions” about the underexploited potential of carbohydrate therapeutics. Langer introduced Westphal to MIT bioengineer Ram Sasisekharan and his technology for sequencing complex carbohydrates. Within months, Westphal brought in other scientific experts as well as $2 million in seed money. Mimeon is now zeroing in on its first target: an improved version of the blood thinner heparin—a substance derived from hog intestines that generates $2 billion in sales annually.