David Hysong’s life is like something out of a James Bond film.
The 29-year-old recent inductee to the Forbes 30 under 30 list for science has travelled the back roads of four different continents on his motorcycle. He’s been hit by a bus going 60mph, and he spent some time in the streets of Cambodia fighting child slavery. At one point, he was even in the pipeline to become a US Navy Seal.
Then, in 2015, he was diagnosed with a rare head-and-neck cancer. That life changing moment was the impetus for him finding his firm Shepherd Therapeutics.
The biotech firm seeks to develop therapies for rare cancers in a faster and more cost efficient way than what is available elsewhere on the market.
According to Shepherd’s website, in aggregate, “rare cancers are the third leading cause of death in the US and account for 42% of all cancer diagnosis.” But out of the more than 250 known rare cancers out there, “only 38 have approved targeted therapies.” Shepherd says it’s starting with treatments for rare bone and glandular cancers, including adenoid cystic carcinoma, the kind that Hysong was diagnosed with in 2015.
“Everything I’ve tried to do in my life has been underpinned by a desire to save others, and after my diagnosis I knew that this is where I was going to turn my attention,” Hysong told Business Insider.
An idea in the shower
Hysong was in the middle of a shower when the idea to start a biotech struck him.
“I literally jumped out of the shower, put on a towel, and grabbed my phone to call my father,” Hysong said.”I think I might have left the water running.”
Hysong said his connection to the firm’s co-founder Gene Williams, the executive chairman at ProMIS Neurosciences, was critical to getting the company off the ground.
“I coached his son so I figured I’d asked him to get lunch to pitch him my idea,” Hysong said.
“I was expecting him to tell me that I would need to go to business school and spend three years researching and preparing, but he said, ‘Do it, and do it now. And I’ll help you,” Hysong added.
Hysong said Williams brought 30 plus years of biotech experience and an extensive network. Williams’ experience coupled with Hysong vision was the perfect recipe for success, according to Hysong.
“It’s what allowed us to close our first $US1.5 million in seed funding,” Hysong said.
“He provided hours of weekly mentoring, helped build relationships within the broader biotech ecosystem, and made introductions as I interviewed and built out my team with key members,” he added.
Hysong told Business Insider that being comfortable reaching out to industry experts for advice and guidance is integral to starting a successful company. He also said aspiring entrepreneurs should consider the following:
Follow your gut. Typically your bold and craziest idea is your best. Don’t be afraid of it. From my experience if you listen to that idea, it will pay off.
Be Courageous. You need to be courageous. But that doesn’t mean you should be overly confident. Humility and knowing where you fall short and should seek out help is just as important.