By John Morrow Jr., Ph.D., Contributing Writer
For young, emerging companies, the need for venture capital is acute, but even more so for biotech startups, which must negotiate the “Valley of Death” to reach profitability. This term describes the need for high levels of funding to move a promising drug concept through initial and costly clinical trials in order to gain acceptance from the investment community, a painful catch-22.
Cheng Liu knew nothing of these limitations when he envisioned his own biotech company. A Chinese émigré, Liu came to the University of California, Berkeley in 1990, obtaining a Ph.D. in biochemistry in 1996. He elected to do a postdoc at Chiron Corp., now Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, Inc., which eventually turned into a permanent position as a research scientist.