Neil Patel

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Ronald Brus, a visionary entrepreneur hailing from the Netherlands, has carved an extraordinary path from a medicine student with a passion for soccer to becoming a prominent figure in the biotech industry.

Ronald’s story is not just one of business success, but a testament to the power of curiosity, resilience, and the pursuit of innovative solutions to real-world problems.

Listen to the full podcast episode and review the transcript here.

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Early Years and Academic Pursuits

Born and raised in the Netherlands, Ronald’s childhood was marked by a love for soccer, particularly during the era of the Dutch national team’s success in the World Cup.

Growing up in the same school as Ronald Koeman, who was later the coach of Barcelona, fueled his enthusiasm for the sport. However, his parents also instilled in him a commitment to academic excellence.

Ronald chose to study medicine in Groningen, demonstrating both his nerdy side and a love for windsurfing.

His insatiable curiosity and love for learning became evident as he embarked on a journey that would take him from the pharmaceutical industry to the world’s major cities, including Milan, Munich, and New York.

Venturing into the Pharmaceutical Industry

During a two-year wait to begin his oncology studies, Ronald entered the pharmaceutical industry, a decision that would significantly impact his trajectory. Working in various global locations exposed him to diverse cultures and perspectives, shaping his worldview.

The fast-paced life of Manhattan left an indelible mark, instilling in him a love for dynamic environments.

The Galapagos Venture

The turning point came when Ronald joined a genetic therapy startup spun out of the University of Leiden.

Not only was he interested in the field, but the fact that Holland already had mobile phones that had yet to make an appearance in New York was a bigger attraction. Within a few years, Ronald became the CEO of the company.

This experience laid the foundation for what would become Galapagos, a biotech company that would later become the largest independent vaccine company globally.

Although Galapagos was based on the same technology, Ronald was more flexible when it came to pivoting to opportunities that would make the technology work.

One of the crucial lessons Ronald emphasizes is the importance of management over technology in biotech success. The ability to sell a compelling story, attract talent, and secure funding emerged as pivotal factors.

He emphasizes the significance of raising sufficient funds since inadequate liquidity often leads to the failure of promising technologies.

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Galapagos’ Success and Acquisition

Galapagos became a big success and the largest independent vaccine company in the world. Ronald recalls the great buzz of becoming the CEO, a position he held for seven years. He was also named the CEO of the Year in the Netherlands.

Ronald advises founders to create a different culture in their companies and go after a target that no one else has identified. Being the trendsetter in a segment gives them a better chance of being successful.

The company’s success, coupled with the acquisition of Crucell by Johnson & Johnson for $3.5 billion, marked a dreamlike ascent in the biotech industry. At its peak, Galapagos was valued at $16B.

As Ronald explains, Johnson and Johnson wanted to get into the infectious diseases sector and was interested in the vaccine company. However, Ronald felt that the J&J company culture was very different from Crucell’s and offered to give them a presentation as an introduction.

Ronald stayed on as part of the transitions for some time but wasn’t really satisfied with the drug development. That’s when he decided to quit the company.

myTomorrows: A Mission Driven by Personal Experience

Ronald’s entrepreneurial journey took a deeply personal turn when his father was diagnosed with incurable lung cancer.

Frustrated by the lack of accessible experimental treatments, he founded myTomorrows, a two-sided marketplace connecting patients and physicians with drugs in development.

This platform aims to democratize access to experimental treatments and generate real-world data on their effectiveness. As Ronald opines, when facing big hurdles, it’s advisable to use them to your advantage, create a unique perspective, and build a company that no one else has developed.

At the time of founding myTomorrows, Ronald was still at the helm of Crucell and had very good friends who were CEOs of the top 10 pharma corporations in the world. They had several medicines in the pipeline and suggested that Ronald try them on his father.

Ronald was excited about the prospect but also keen on making the drugs available to millions of patients worldwide. His offer to provide data about his father’s progress was turned down since the pharma companies couldn’t use real-world data because it wasn’t controlled.

A Two-Sided Marketplace for Pharma Companies and Patients

Ronald was determined to help thousands of random people by making the drugs available to them, and that became the concept behind myTomorrows.

The platform matches patients with ongoing clinical trials from any part of the world. Patients need not pay for the drugs but must provide the data in exchange.

Bringing in professional investors was more about getting credibility for his idea than funding. But the myTomorrows platform essentially created a new world where drugs could meet patients in just a few years after they had been invented and not the traditional 12 years.

Patients can get treatment for free, and pharma companies get information about how the drugs are doing in the real world. Clinical trials are very well controlled; however, the degree of control results in no normal patients being subjects in the trials.

myTomorrows ensures that smaller companies can innovate quicker and potentially make it to the end. That’s because they don’t need to spend so much money on phase III studies, and the world can benefit from more ongoing innovation.

Feyenoord and Beyond: Blurring Lines Between Soccer and Biotech

As a part owner of Feyenoord, one of the top football clubs in the Netherlands, Ronald draws parallels between the worlds of soccer and biotech.

The strategic approach to acquiring and selling players mirrors the deal structures in the biotech industry. It’s a fascinating intersection of sports and entrepreneurship, underlining Ronald’s diverse interests.

Ronald compares molecules and talented young players. Just as molecules are tested to see how they will perform in the bodies of patients, so also, young players are also tested to see if they have the right specs and how they perform on their pitch.

The players are also ultimately tested to see how they compare with their peers and the speed with which they develop. Ronaldo also talks about evaluating how much money to invest in the club and entering into deal structures to acquire and sell smaller players that the club can afford.

In this way, these larger organizations or football clubs are similar to biotech. Just as they have yearly payments and royalties, when a club decides to sell a player, it earns an extra 15%. The whole process is based on data.

Leyden Laboratories: A Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ronald co-founded Leyden Laboratories, focusing on developing nasal sprays with antibodies as a defense mechanism.

The company’s innovative approach to influenza prevention highlights Ronald’s ability to identify gaps in the market and create solutions where others may not have seen opportunities.

Ronald recalls how he bought the assets he needed from other companies for the building blocks for Leyden.

They reached out to Google, SoftBank, and Fidelity Investments for funding and created nasal sprays that are independent of the human immune system and can potentially protect against these diseases. Leyden successfully raised $20M.

Storytelling is everything, which is something that Ronald Brus was able to master. Being able to capture the essence of what you are doing in 15 to 20 slides is the key. For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend Peter Thiel (see it here), where the most critical slides are highlighted.

Remember to unlock the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.

Ronald reveals that the most important aspect of successful companies is that they are built around a story that resonates well and is logical.

A great narrative around something that founders see in the outside world that frustrates them. Building a story is easy when they want to bring change, and that’s how Ronald looks at opportunities.

Parting Wisdom and Future Endeavors

Ronald Brus’s journey exemplifies the power of curiosity and resilience in navigating the complexities of the biotech industry. His advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is to remain intensely curious about the world, echoing the sentiment that being present when opportunities arise is key to success.

In conclusion, Ronald Brus’s story is a testament to the transformative impact of combining passion, curiosity, and a commitment to solving real-world problems. As he continues to contribute to healthcare innovation, his legacy serves as an inspiration for the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Listen to the full podcast episode to know more, including:

  • Ronald Brus’s journey underscores the importance of an insatiable curiosity, sparking ventures in response to frustrating real-world problems.
  • In the biotech realm, Brus emphasizes that successful ventures are often defined by effective management and the ability to sell a compelling narrative rather than the technology itself.
  • Working in various international cities broadened Brus’s worldview, influencing his approach to business and contributing to his success in the dynamic biotech industry.
  • myTomorrows, a platform connecting patients with experimental treatments, emerged from Brus’s personal frustration when his father was diagnosed with incurable lung cancer.
  • As a part owner of Feyenoord, Brus navigates the intersections of soccer and biotech, drawing parallels between strategic player acquisitions and the deal structures in the biotech industry.
  • Brus’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic led to the creation of Leyden Laboratories, developing nasal sprays with antibodies as a unique defense mechanism against influenza and other diseases.
  • Brus’s ventures are grounded in compelling narratives, emphasizing that a great story, more than a groundbreaking idea, attracts investment, talent, and success in the biotech landscape.


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Neil Patel

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