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.

His latest venture, Leyden Laboratories, attracted investment from notable investors like Google, Fidelity Investments, SoftBank Vision Fund, and F-Prime Capital.

In this episode, you will learn:

  • 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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About Ronald Brus:

Ronald Brus is a physician with a passion for the biopharmaceutical industry. He serves as CEO of myTomorrows, a company he founded that bridges the gap between patients who are searching for treatment options and the pharmaceutical companies that provide them.

Ronald is also the co-founder and CBO of Leyden Labs, a company targeting commonalities of respiratory viruses to protect against known and future viral outbreaks.

He spent 14 years at Crucell, a biotechnology company specializing in vaccines, serving in various roles, including CEO, COO, CBO, and EVP of business development.

Ronald also formerly served as a member of the executive committee for Galapagos. He earned his medical degree from the University of Groningen.

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Read the Full Transcription of the Interview:

Alejandro Cremades: Alrighty hello everyone and welcome to the deal maker show. So today. We have a really incredible founder a founder that has done it multiple times you know and very successfully so we’re talking about several companies that hes built. You know that are that have worth you know over over over a billion. You know, think about that we’re going to be talking about building scaling. We’re going to be talking about being contrarian also how to build companies and how to get them started out of a frustration amongst ah, many other things so without further ado. Let’s welcome. Our guest today. Ronald Bruce welcome to the show.

Ronald Brus: Thank you Alejado Happy to be here.

Alejandro Cremades: So originally born and raised in the Netherlands give us a walk through memory lane. How was life growing up. So.

Ronald Brus: Growing up was fantastic. You know it was a you know even when I was small kid big soccer fan Donelos were doing an excellent in the world cup I had a blast I was in the same school as Ronald Brus: Kuman who later became the coach of Barcelona. I had just a fantastic time I had 2 parents that really stimulated me to do high school well and then I needed to pick a study and I decided to do medicines in Chronia which is in the north of the nelands I was a bit like um, you know a bit like a nerd.

Ronald Brus: But I loved studying and I loved windsurving and ah, you know the entire study was just great and then I decided basically I want to become an oncologist and you know at that time. Um, there was a lot of ah people that want to become oncologists and there weren’t that many. Places to start so I had to wait about two years before I could start and during those 2 years I decided to do something entirely different and that was work in the pharmaceutical industry and I love it.

Alejandro Cremades: Now now what 1 thing that was amazing. There is you know you decided to um to really you know take some time off you know and you were waiting for the oncologist the you know industry to kick in but you know as you were alluding to it. You started to work in places like milan munich New York and then you know you decided that you never wanted to go back I guess the first thing that comes to mind here is as as being able to live in so many different cities. What what opened up for you. You know what can a worldview you know changed there from being in so many different cities around the world working.

Ronald Brus: Um, you know I like kind of I think it had to do with the fact that I had such a curiosity for how other cultures work. How other people think and I always wanted to learn so going to munich. Was a blast going to milan and work that was great going to New York as a 30 year old right? Fantastic working in Manhattan I mean it was all I it was like a sponge sponge I soaked it in everything I saw everything that I could learn from. I loved it. I love the dynamics I love the fast lane. Everything.

Alejandro Cremades: Now obviously you know during this time too is the moment where you decide that it’s time to take ownership of and of your own destiny and the first stop there was a company you know called Galapagos. So um, you know. I guess you know I think it was Kalapagos but you tell me what really got you into the venture world.

Ronald Brus: Yeah, well actually um, we had 2 kids um in New York and my wife wanted to go back to Holland and I was looking for opportunities and to see if there were any potential startups that I could join. And there was a little one that was doing genetic therapy that was a spin out of the university of leiden and I became interested in it and especially because when I lived in the states back in the um in the eighty s the end of the 80 s I you know and in the story in the yeah late ninety s so I think it was 96 when I first met them I I saw that they’re all had like in the nelands they all had mobile phones and I didn’t have them in New York and I really wanted to work with a company that. Mobile phones and stuff like that and they were doing something like genetic um like therapies and I was interested in that and I decided to join them and um, you know in a few years I became the Ceo that company and during that time I started another company. It was called Galapagos. Actually based on the same technology and just looking and being not stubborn that a lot of the things that we were doing in the beginning failed and I was just looking for opportunities to make the technology work.

Ronald Brus: And and that was how we came up with Galapagos and galapagos became a big success crusale became the largest independent vaccine company in the world and and you know it was was a great buss became Ceo the company for 7 years um, become the Ceo of the year in the netherlands all kind of great things but it just happened in a dream. Everything went so fast I I cannot even recollect what happened during those days and why we were doing so well in the stock market, etc, etc.

Alejandro Cremades: Now with Galapagos valued at sixteen billion at the peak with crusale I was acquired by J And J for three point five billion you know, really incredible. You know, like everything that you were touching you know was turning into a billion dollar operation I guess.

Ronald Brus: It was really a dream and.

Alejandro Cremades: What were some of the key patterns. Ah that you were seeing repeated from one to the other.

Ronald Brus: I think you know the most important thing that I’ve learned during the years of going from big pharma into smaller biotech was that it wasn’t really the technology that mattered but it was very much. Um, you know the management that had to sell the story um had to raise money and the more money you raised the more likely it is that you’re going to turn this into a successful farm. And that is you know for me was always one of the most important lessons. So whenever people ask me to invest in their company I’m not that curious about their plan I’m not that curious about their technology I just want to look who’s at the Helm and why. And when he comes out with a great story and can show that he’s capable of attracting great people I might invest I’m never going to invest in a great technology because I’ve seen so many file and it’s always due to the fact that the liquidity position of the company at the end is not good enough. And that’s always due to the management. So you know this kind of lesson learned you know also I’m I’m I’m doing that now. Also always make sure that you’re raising enough money because it’s so important another lesson is use.

Ronald Brus: Things that are against you or big hurdles. Try to use them in your advantage and and try to be think like no one else try to create a company that no one else has created. Don’t try to Mimic. Don’t try to you know. Do something that someone else already had done I always tried to do something different so create a different culture in your company create a kind of a you know you know, go after a target that no one else is going after because ultimately. You know you need to be alone in a certain segment to be very successful.

Alejandro Cremades: So so then in this case for you 2 talking about being successful as well on the acquisition side. You know going through an acquisition and gettinging the company acquired by J And J for three point five billion a say is quite an achievement tool. What how does our acquisition like that you know, really come together and. And what did you learn you know from the deal-making site when it comes to reaching the finish line with a business.

Ronald Brus: Yeah, well actually um I knew that that Johnson And Johnson wanted to get into infectious diseases and we had a vaccine company but basically I felt that the um, the culture. Of j and j was so much different than from our entrepreneurial crusale that I said basically to the management of of Johnson Johnson let’s talk 1 more time about this and I will give you a presentation about our culture and I gave them a presentation. That was called rat monkey and and actually the idea of it was that rat monkeys are different species than brown monkeys and the brown monkeys are the large corporations and they want to be like a rat monkey but they never become 1 right. And rat monkeys always have a different. They always have fun. They live close to the sea and I was just you know telling them that you know Cruise sell is a rat monkey company. You guys are bra monkeys and that has has nothing to do with. Um, you know that a judgment or something like that. It’s just you know how I see the world and then I learned afterwards after the presentation that they started a project rat monkey and they wanted to acquire us just because of the fact that we were so different but I also warned them that.

Ronald Brus: You know the ultimate aim of the brown monkeys is to destroy rat monkeys and you know so it it was you know I couldn’t live in that environment anymore. So one day I acquired as I stayed 1 year on on you know on board and then I had to go because it it became too brown monkey.

Alejandro Cremades: Now I know that part of that transition to you know is a moment where you ultimately decided that you were not really satisfied with the drug development and that was a time that it was also unfortunate because you received the news that your father you know was a you know.

Ronald Brus: Um.

Alejandro Cremades: Ah, diagnosed with lung cancer. How would you say that that changed the course of everything for you.

Ronald Brus: Yeah I actually was still at the helm of of crusale. We just sold it to um j and j and then my dad came to me and he said you know I need to tell you something Um I got lung cancer and they cannot cure. So. I’m going to die I have very good friends in my boards that were ceos of of let’s say the top 10 pharma corporations in the world and they said Ron More you know we have stuff in our pipeline. Why don’t you try that on your dad. And then I started to realize well wow I’m so blessed that I have those friends but you know there must be millions of other patients that don’t have those friends and they cannot try these new drugs. So although I will accept gratefully. Offer I also need to work on something that other patients could use drugs as well and another fascinating thing was that I started to ask these guys. Well if my dad would be on the drug. Would you guys be interested in how he’s doing. And he said no, we cannot use that kind of data because that’s realw worldld. That’s that’s that’s not controlled and I was just thinking wow that’s interested because I would love to give it to my dad but I would also be very much interested if I would be a pharmaceutical Ceo. Ah what comes out of.

Ronald Brus: If I give this to thousand random people that have that disease are they going to be cured or how’s it going and therefore out of frustration that something like that didn’t exist I started my tomorrows a company. This is basically. Um, a 2 sided marketplace where patients and physicians on one side come together and we match those with drugs and development.

Alejandro Cremades: So then so then what happened next.

Ronald Brus: Well, what happens then is the the computer matches these these patients immediately with a drug in development and then the first question is is this person this subject. This patient is that one going to go. In a clinical trial and that would be a preferred route but most of the time 95% of the time is not possible and the reason why it’s not possible is for example with very simple geographical reason. The trial is only running and recruiting patients in the United States of America. This patient is in Berlin or this patient is in Paris and cannot be part of that trial. It could also be that the trial is only in Berlin and none of the american patients can be part of such a trial but they all would love to and for those. We trying to create something else is getting treated outside of the clinical trial and also we do that for free. So the patient and the doctors they don’t need to pay but we would love to have the data afterwards.

Alejandro Cremades: So then so then for this company now you know which he is saying as you were alluding to you know what end up becoming my tomorrows. Ah, you guys have Also you know, raised a tiny bit of money you know, obviously after the um, all the successes that you had you know Before. With all these companies you know, exits Why did you decide to raise money from external investors.

Ronald Brus: Um, well there’s a couple of I think that’s and also a lesson that I’ve learned if you as the Ceo that I became for this company are also the one who’s investing most of your of the let’s say the lion’s share of the money that’s been. Use whenever you know there is a little bit of a dip or it doesn’t go as wanted or it takes longer. They’re all look at you to take the first step to to fund know some money again. All and to why is some money to the company and then all the others will follow. I didn’t like that kind of thing. So I really wanted to have some professional investors in the company to do basically keep a very ah way larger share as in the other buyer companies but you know wanted to make sure that I was doing the right thing.

Alejandro Cremades: So then so then now you know for my tomorrows if I was to let’s say tell you that you’re going to sleep tonight Ronald and that you wake up in a world where the vision of my tomorrows is fully realized what does that world look like.

Ronald Brus: That world looks like that pharmaceutical development for you as a patient is an integrated part of healthcare. So if you cannot be helped with everything that’s approved they help you with something that’s not approved and they gather your data. An entirely new world where drugs are meeting patients you know years just a few years after they’ve been invented not the traditional twelve years that you don’t need to worry if you’re a patient in that ah kind of circumstances if you can. Afford it because you get the duck for free that we know what drugs are doing in the real world and that we know why we should reimburse drugs because they do something they help people in a real world rather than in an artificial kind of fashion. What you normally see as the result of clinical trials that are very well controlled, but there’s so much control that you could argue there are no normal patients in that trial being subject to the the drug. So the world will change innovation goes quicker. Smaller companies can innovate quicker and can potentially make it to the end because they don’t need to spend so much money on on phase 3 studies and the world should be a better place because there’s way more innovation going on.

Alejandro Cremades: Now for you. You are also have become a part owner of fay and earth. You know which is the top a club there in in the Netherlands soccer club. You know that we would call it here football club there in Europe. Ah, you know it’s it’s it’s very interesting here I’ve heard you say that there are similarities between football and biotech. How is that the case.

Ronald Brus: Well, you know being a biotech entrepreneur. You know that you’re looking at molecules and you wonder how will they do in the real world. How will they do in the arms of in the bodies of patients and actually it’s the same with young players. You know they’re talented like those molecules they look they if they had that they have the right specs but then ultimately the test is how will they perform on the pitch and how good are they compared to their peers and how fast are they developing. How much money do I need to pour into it to develop and and to keep them for your club and then ultimately you know as a smaller club like finer Rotterdam is it’s it’s one of the largest clubs in the Netherlands, but it’s still compared to rail madrid or pariso jimo man united. It’s a relatively small club. You know that you have to let these players go because the big guys can afford you know to buy them from you and there’s no, no, no holding back there and there you see the deal structures that we do when acquiring these players. And selling. Ultimately these displays to these larger organizations or football clubs is so similar to bioattech we have mousestones we have you know we have like payments yearly payments we have even something that calls like royalties when when.

Ronald Brus: But Regimejas decides to sell that player to someone else that you get an extra 15%. It’s It’s all like Biotech molecules and the interesting day thing Now it’s now finally also all based on data. Right? It’s no longer. You know that player has a great head or a funny walk or this that another no we have all the data like we have from a molecule.

Alejandro Cremades: Now for you. There’s never a dull moment Ronald because in addition to to this and you know to running my tomorrows. You know you’re also involved with other operations like tested me or or laden laps. You know I mean even on late laps. You guys have raised close to 200000000 um, as well. So what are some of these say other other things that you’re working on.

Ronald Brus: Yeah, now a like found a light and lap started basically as an observation in in January Two Thousand and twenty when the first patients with covid. Were broadcasted on the television from China and you saw and basically me as a physician The first thing that I noticed they were all elderly people and I was just thinking why are there? no kits being um, you know, infected in such a way that they need to go to the hospital. And then we developed a kind of of processes like hey kids have a different immune system covid is a new virus but for kids every virus is new so they kill it in a different way and that was the start of leden laboratories. Which is basically a company that gives antibodies and sprays them in the nose as a way of defense mechanism against influenza covid and whatever and when everyone was focusing on on covid our company lied and decided. To focus on influenza instead because no one was interested at that first half year in 2000 in influenza. So I could buy interesting assets from companies that I needed to create the building blocks for for leden.

Ronald Brus: Ah, we convinced Google we convinced softbank fidelity to to invest and and hence we now have a great company that is creating no sprays independent of the human immune system that can potentially protect against these diseases.

Alejandro Cremades: That’s amazing now now in your case you know I I know that when you look at starting new companies and obviously you know like the listeners are probably super impressed with with all the companies that you have been involved with all the projects that you have going on when you go about starting those You always look outside. You know of the business you look at things that frustrate you you look at the basically the stuff that is not in your day today. Why is that the case and and how do you go about going from a frustrated ah frustration to saying you know what I’m going to build our company to solve this.

Ronald Brus: Um, yeah I think the most important thing is that that the way I look at companies that are successful. They’re all built around a story. A story that resonates well and that is logical. A great narrative when you observe something in the outside world that frustrates you. It’s extremely easy to build a great story that you want to change that and why. Because other people feel that frustration too and that is actually how I start to to to look at opportunities I can you know I could even when I have to wait in the general petitioner’s office when I have something that I think the general petition. Needs to see that and I have to wait I immediately say why do I have to wait why is that and can we solve this and then you know you start to think about hey the general petitioner is open or the physician the house physician or whatever you want to call it. from from eight thirty to five o’clock but most diseases and most symptoms start after 5 or in the weekend or whatever and then you start like hey it’s not only that I need to to to wait here is also that when I start to see symptoms. He’s not there or she’s not there because.

Ronald Brus: The office is closed and then I start to think about Wow Why don’t we do this or that and you know with that narrative. That’s a narrative when you go to investors they immediately picked it up because they’re the same like you and me right? They they feel the same frustration. And I think that’s the reason why you know why?? why? It’s easy to work with a new concept if it starts out of frustration of something that you see in the outside world.

Alejandro Cremades: And why companies with the most amount of money always win.

Ronald Brus: I don’t you know this is this is a kind of a an interesting kind of concept I don’t know um alecado maybe you’re from Spain or but I don’t know if this is a game in the United States but there is a famous game is called risk and that game. Is basically with 4 or 5 players and you all sit and you all need to have a different task in the world and you have armies and you need to fight and you need to conquer other kind of thing when I was a student I was playing the game every day and what I learned. Was it didn’t matter what task you had the one with most of the armies always did win and then I started to find it also logical that it applies in in in business because the narrative this the you know. The the concept that you’re working on your mission, etc, etc if they resonate. Well, it’s a good thing that you’re doing it. It’s easier for you to to attract money you get more money when you get better people working for you. They make you succeed that make this company succeed. So when I invest it’s never on you know how great of an idea it is. It’s always like who’s the guy who came up with this and why and does he look at the world the same way as I do do I feel.

Ronald Brus: That this story is a story that resonates with me.

Alejandro Cremades: So now it Ronald I’m gonna put you into a time machine. Okay, and I’m gonna bring you back in time I’m gonna bring you back in time to maybe that moment where you are now you know taking a look at maybe starting.

Ronald Brus: Okay.

Alejandro Cremades: Something of your own. Maybe you know like back in the early 90 s ah and let’s say you have an opportunity there to go back in time and to have a chat with your younger self without younger Ronald Brus: .

Ronald Brus: Yeah.

Ronald Brus: Um, yeah.

Alejandro Cremades: And you’re able to give that younger Ronald 1 piece of advice before launching a business. What will that be and why given what you know now.

Ronald Brus: I think alejaro I think the advice should be be even more curious about what’s happening in the world than when you were 30 yourself I remember I was living in Raweton in Connecticut. Close to my heart and at the time I was thirty years old and my next door neighbor was the head of sarchi and S Sachi in the United States and we were chatting I was a young chap. He was a little bit older but he was extremely successful and then one day he told me I’m gonna. Quit my job I’m going to work independent in on something in the internet you know? Aleanddo I didn’t even know what the internet was I thought the guy was totally crazy. But he had at his age even more curiosity than I had I should have invested immediately and looked like hey what is the internet. Why is he doing that I did like the curiosity at that moment in time but those are the guys. That are changing the world right? They’re making the right moves on the right step because it’s all about serendipity being there when something happens right? and acts. But if you’re not there. You can’t act.

Alejandro Cremades: I love that Ronald for the people that are listening that will love to reach out and say hi. What is the best way for them to do so.

Ronald Brus: Oh you know? Um, first of all, if you sent me um on on on Linkedin. You know something I always reply because like I said I now know that I need to be curious about everyone. Everyone has a story. And I’m curious about these kind of things so reach out to me on Linkedin and it will be or via you if I give you my phone number I’m I’m probably that the wrong people are going to get.

Alejandro Cremades: Yeah I hear you I hear you? So so ronal I have to say that it has been a tremendous honor to have you on the show today and to yeah, thank you so much for for being with us. It really has been a pleasure and an honor to have you with us rooff. Thank you.

Ronald Brus: Alicando you’re more than welcome. Thank you so much.


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