James Taylor took his engineering physics degree at the University of British Columbia.
He then did a PhD in genetics at the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle.
While he was working on that, he also worked at a venture capital firm to learn how to successfully commercialize cutting-edge technology.
He now works in the field of nanomedicine, developing nanoscale “smart” materials that can target cells in the body to deliver a drug to an incredibly specific area.
“This century is the biotechnology century,” Taylor said. “It’s becoming possible to gather this tremendous amount of [genetic] information. We’ve learned more about cancer in the last five years than we have in all of human history.”
With three other collaborators, Taylor started Precision NanoSystems after completing his PhD and moving back to Vancouver. The company makes what Taylor calls a toolkit that can be used to create nanotechnology drugs; Taylor is a co-inventor.
“We’re providing the picks and shovels to the genomics gold rush,” he said.
Those products are now on the market, providing revenue for the company. The company has also been very successful in raising equity and grants for research and development.
Taylor credits his stint at the venture capital firm for helping him understand the mechanics of financing and how startups work. While he set up that part-time job himself, the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle, where he did his PhD, has now created a venture capital fellowship, with the goal of replicating that experience for other students.
“We spend a lot of time building our technology … but at the same time as an entrepreneur you are building the company, and that in itself is a unique skill set.”
Taylor also emphasizes the important role of the other co-founders of the company.
“Any achievement we’ve accomplished has really been a team effort,” he said.