Scott Johnson may have dreamed up the prototype for all biotech startups to come. When he formed the Myelin Repair Foundation to come up with a cure for multiple sclerosis (myelin is the fatty sheath around axons that degrades in people with MS), he was also determined to overhaul the supersecret, years-long process of drug research and discovery.
Johnson, who has suffered from MS for 30 years, didn’t have time for that. So he recruited five neuroscientists, made them promise to work together, resolved intellectual-property issues in advance, and provided the IT infrastructure for daily long-distance collaboration. He placed a few calls to friends in Big Pharma, offering first crack at the team’s results in exchange for a 50-50 split of the profits. “When I was first introduced to our team [five years ago], I asked each one when they thought the first Myelin drug would be ready,” Johnson says. “They said it would take 15 years. We now believe it will be ready in , and that we’ll have three or four more” by 2009.