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Seasoned VC Joins lndiana Proteomics Consortium, Hopes to Nurture Local Biotech

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Jack Gill, a venture capitalist’s venture capitalist, is a member of literally dozens of corporate and academic boards. He has offices in Boston and in Silicon Valley and a full calendar. One thing that this 66-year-old financial wizard with a PhD in organic chemistry doesn’t have is a lot of spare time.

So, why has he accepted an invitation to join yet another board, the board of directors of the Indiana Proteomics Consortium?

“If they didn’t have what I consider something reaching a critical mass, I would have found a polite way to say no,” Gill told ProteoMonitor last week in a telephone interview.

Gill joins Peter Kissinger, chairman and CEO of BioAnalytical Systems, and William Hunt, chairman of Hunt Capital Partners, as the newest board members of a unique consortium in Indiana, a business partnership between Indiana University, Purdue University, and Eli Lilly funded with $12 million.

Founded early this year, the consortium sponsors analytical chemistry researchers from the universities and Lilly who are developing proteomics discovery tools and methods with the goal of commercializing any promising technologies they produce. Earlier this year, the consortium conducted a study to identify several areas of proteomics technology development it intends to target, but has yet to disclose them.

Gill has not run proteomics companies himself, but he said he could benefit the consortium by providing contacts in the venture capital community, and sharing his experience as an entrepreneur.

Having survived eight up-and-down business cycles in 22 years as a venture capital investor, Gill said this is a good time for Indiana to take advantage of its resources to nurture high-tech entrepreneurship in proteomics. “There are rich opportunities for participation in life sciences companies,” he said.

His advice, based on 35 years of investing in early-stage companies, about a third of that in life sciences including founding 20 medical devices companies, is simple.

“They don’t need to reinvent the wheel there,” he said. “The smart thing for them to do is tap into the experiences of Silicon Valley and Boston.” Gill said resources and infrastructure have to be developed that will keep intellectual property and people in the state. Venture capital, he said, is an important ingredient.

There are a few VCs in Indiana, he said: “There are moves afoot to create a fund of funds, pools of capital, to grow VC firms.”

Gill’s deep connection to the area dates to graduate school, when he earned his PhD in organic chemistry from Indiana in 196. He also has two children who are matriculating to the IU-Bloomington campus, southwest of Indianapolis. He is on the advisory boards for the schools of business, arts and sciences, and is a director of the IU foundation. The 1999 winner of the Horatio Alger Award for Distinguished Americans, Gill was an early player in the venture capital arena in Silicon Valley, moving there in 1965 and co-founding the firm Vanguard Venture Partners in 1981 after founding Autolab in 1970.

Today, Gill is on the faculty at Harvard Medical School and lectures at MIT. He is looking forward to attending his first consortium board meeting.

“Indiana has started to get its act together,” he said. The state could create an environment to follow the Silicon Valley model, Gill said.

Gill, a Texas native, thinks big. He said he firmly believes in economic growth and, to him, the best investment is in high technology like proteomics.

“Per every dollar invested, nothing generates more jobs, tax revenues and export products shipped than a dollar invested in a high-tech startup,” he said. “

— MOK

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