Ivor Royston

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Ivor Royston
Ivor Royston headshot.jpg
Born Retford, England
Residence United States
Fields oncologist, researcher, scientist, entrepreneur and venture capitalist

Ivor Royston, M.D., is an oncologist, researcher, scientist, entrepreneur and venture capitalist, recognized for his efforts to develop treatments for multiple disease targets and to fund biotechnology companies with promising science, technology or medicines.[1][2][3][4][5][6] He speaks regularly at healthcare conferences and symposia throughout the United States, Europe and Asia.[7][8]

One of Dr. Royston's most significant achievements may be his successful efforts to partner academic medical research with industry to take potential treatments more quickly from the benchtop to the bedside.[1][2][3][5]

After co-founding the first biotechnology company in San Diego, California, he and his associates went on to form or invest in dozens of other biotechs, laying the foundation of the region's thriving biotech cluster, one of the three largest in the United States. As a venture capitalist, Dr. Royston invests in start-up companies that have promising technologies for treating and potentially curing diseases, including various forms of cancer.[9][10][11]

Born in Retford, England, Dr. Royston emigrated to the United States with his family in 1954 at age 9, and later, as a 14-year-old, he declared that he would devote his life to curing cancer. Unlike many future scientists, his passion also extended to commerce. This early interest in business manifested itself in a Washington, D.C., high-school investment club of 16 boys — dubbed the Chessmen — that he founded with friends. He also bought and operated an ice cream truck to earn money for college.

These divergent interests — medicine and business — would one day catapult Dr. Royston beyond his peers, transforming San Diego's economy while improving the health and lives of tens of thousands of patients along the way.[12]


In 1978 Royston, then an assistant professor at the University of California-San Diego, bridged a chasm between academia and the marketplace, triggering a paradigm shift that forever changed San Diego's medical research community and led to the region's establishment as a leading international biotech clusters.[2][3][13]

Royston's reasoning was that private enterprise clearly provided the fastest way to get new, life-saving medicines from the research bench top to the patient's bedside. While serving as a researcher and a practicing physician at UCSD, Royston felt the frustration at the long process required to deliver innovative treatments to patients. That frustration fueled his decisive action to work towards eliminating the disconnect between research and clinical application by founding Hybritech with fellow scientist Howard Birndorf in 1978.[14]

The idea behind Hybritech was to harness monoclonal antibodies to quickly diagnose and treat diseases. Financier Brook Byers, of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, realized the importance of the science and recognized the longer-term value of the budding entrepreneurs' passion, energy and commitment. His firm provided the $300,000 start-up funding, and Hybritech's first product, antibodies for the hepatitis B virus, reached the research market in 1980. The PSA test developed later by the company for the early diagnosis of prostate cancer has benefited countless victims of this deadly disease and set the stage for new blood tests for the early detection of cancer. Hybritech went public in 1981 and, five years later, pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Company paid $480 million for the company.[15][16]

A former employee of Hybritech described the culture clash that followed Eli Lilly's buyout as 'Animal House meets The Waltons.'[17]

— Chemical Heritage Newsmagazine           

Dr. Royston went on to co-found IDEC Pharmaceuticals (now Biogen Idec) and the San Diego Regional Cancer Center (now the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center).

More than 50 San Diego companies trace their lineage directly to Hybritech, its founders and early employees. Among those are IDEC, San Diego's biggest biotech success story, with a billion dollars in sales for its lymphoma treatment Rituxan. Others include Amylin, Cancervax, Gen-Probe, Ligand Pharmaceuticals and Nanogen.[9]

In addition to Hybritech, Dr. Royston has been directly involved in the founding or funding of many biotech companies as an entrepreneur and venture capitalist. These companies include: Applied Molecular Evolution, Avalon Pharmaceuticals, Combichem (acquired by Dupont), Corixa, Dynavax Technologies Corporation, Genesys Therapeutics (merged with Somatix and acquired by Cell Genesys), Genquest (acquired by Corixa), HenaQuest, IDEC Pharmaceuticals (merged with Biogen to form Biogen Idec), LigoCyte, Micromet (formerly CancerVax), Morphotek (Acquired by Eisai Corporation), Sequana Therapeutics (merged with Arris to form AXYS and acquired by Celera Genomics), Syndax, Targegen, Triangle Pharmaceuticals (acquired by Gilead) and Variagenics (merged with Hyseq Pharmaceuticals to form Nuvelo).[9][18]

Royston is impassioned. Some people are steady keeled, but he's not like that. Royston is always passionately on, wheeling and dealing, or he's exhausted. Those are his only two states.[5]

— Dr. Daniel Gold             

Career milestones[edit]

  • In 1970, Dr. Royston earned an MD from Johns Hopkins University, after receiving a BA in Human Biology from JHU in 1967. He chose Stanford University for his internship and residency (1970–72) and clinical oncology fellowship (1975–77) in order to study with cancer research luminaries Saul Rosenberg and Henry Kaplan. He is board certified in both Internal Medicine and Medical Oncology.
  • Dr. Royston served in the Public Health Service at National Institutes of Health from 1972-75 conducting research in virology and immunology.
  • In 1977, Dr. Royston accepted a position as assistant professor of medicine, Division of Hematology/Oncology, at the University of California-San Diego, where he was instrumental in developing the new UCSD Cancer Center as the director of Clinical Immunology.
  • Dr. Royston remained at UCSD until 1990, earning tenure while continuing his entrepreneurial activities. During those years, he served as the director of UCSD's Cell Surface Marker Laboratory, as director of the Clinical Immunology Program at the UCSD Cancer Center, and as chief of the Oncology Section at the VA Medical Center in San Diego.
  • In 1990, Dr. Royston established the San Diego Regional Cancer Center, now known as the Sydney Kimmel Cancer Center (SKCC), with Drs. Tom Shiftan and Alan Goodman. Again Dr. Royston was driven not only to discover cutting-edge cancer therapy, but to speed the process of delivering treatments to patients. Thanks to his leadership and vision, and an affiliation with Sharp HealthCare, SKCC is today recognized as a leading center for translational cancer research.
  • During his years at UCSD and the Cancer Center, Dr. Royston made significant contributions as a medical researcher. He was one of the first to use monoclonal antibodies to treat patients with melanoma, leukemia and T cell lymphoma. He developed radio-labeled monoclonal antibodies that came to be known as "magic bullets" for the precise delivery of radiation therapy to cancer cells while minimizing damage to healthy tissue. And he was on the front lines in developing gene therapies for treating cancer.
  • In 1993, Dr. Royston and Stan Fleming founded Forward Ventures. This new venture capital firm empowered Dr. Royston to apply his extensive scientific and medical knowledge to the founding and funding of companies developing breakthrough medical treatments. Forward Ventures became the largest fund in Southern California focused exclusively on the life sciences.
  • In 1996, President Bill Clinton appointed Dr. Royston to a six-year term on the National Cancer Advisory Board.
  • As a producer of the Broadway musical Jersey Boys, Dr. Royston won a 2006 Tony award for best musical.[19]


Dr. Royston and his family have built a reputation for philanthropy throughout Southern California. In 1987, he and his wife established the Ivor and Colette Carson Royston Advised Fund at the San Diego Foundation to support a variety of healthcare and cultural organizations. The Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center, San Diego Opera, La Jolla Playhouse, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Jewish Community Center and Congregation Beth Israel are among those organizations to benefit from the Roystons' generosity.[20]

In 2002, presented the Ivor and Colette Royston Research Program Award to the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.[21]


Dr. Royston is married to Colette and they have two children. Dr. Royston has two brothers, Elliot Royston of Atlanta, Georgia, and Gerald "Stinky Pete" Royston of Bethesda, Maryland.


  • David and Dorothea Garfield Human Relations Award, American Jewish Committee, San Diego Chapter, 2003
  • Scientist of the Year, Achievement Rewards for College Scientists Foundation, 2006
  • Entrepreneur Hall of Fame, CONNECT, 2006[22][23]
  • Tony Award. The American Theatre Wing, 2006[19]
  • Visionary Award, LEAD San Diego, 2008[24][25]


  1. ^ a b Fikes, Bradley J. Only time eludes forever quizzical science maverick: Ivor Royston, president of San Diego Regional Cancer Center, San Diego Business Journal, June 13, 1994.
  2. ^ a b c "Why San Diego Has Biotech" Archived 2007-07-04 at the Wayback Machine., Fikes, Bradley J. San Diego Metropolitan, April 1999. Accessed June 20, 2008.
  3. ^ a b c "Biotech Eden", Wilson, Elizabeth K. Chemical & Engineering News, March 5, 2001. Accessed June 20, 2008.
  4. ^ "CONNECT Inducts Dr. Ivor Royston into Entrepreneur Hall of Fame", Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News, June 14, 2006. Accessed June 20, 2008.
  5. ^ a b c "A legend in biotech world", Crabtree, Penni. The San Diego Union-Tribune, Dec. 14, 2004. Accessed June 20, 2008.
  6. ^ "Innovation Prospectors: San Diegans ply a river of ideas for biotech gold", Acello, Rich. San Diego Magazine, June 2008. Accessed June 20, 2008.
  7. ^ "Profiles in Innovation Series: Von Liebig Forum", UCTV: UC San Diego, June 26, 2006. Accessed June 20, 2008.
  8. ^ "8th Shanghai International Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical Forum" Bio-Forum 2006, Apr. 25-27, 2006. Accessed June 20, 2008.
  9. ^ a b c "Ivor Royston". Forward Ventures. 2007. 
  10. ^ "Ivor Royston, MD", VentureForth, 2005. Accessed June 20, 2008.
  11. ^ "Ivor Royston profile", LinkedIn, 2008. Accessed June 20, 2008.
  12. ^ "Ivor Royston, MD", Conde Nast Portfolio.com:, 2008. Accessed June 20, 2008.
  13. ^ "Innovation Prospectors: San Diegans ply a river of ideas for biotech gold", Acello, Rich. San Diego Magazine, June 2008. Accessed June 20, 2008.
  14. ^ "Cancer Researcher Turned Venture Capitalist", San Diego Metropolitan, November 2002. Accessed June 20, 2008.
  15. ^ "The Birth of Biotech: How one company helped seed San Diego's industry", Chi, Kelly Rae. The Scientist. Accessed June 20, 2008.
  16. ^ "Forbes Profile: Ivor Royston, MD", Forbes.com, 2008. Accessed June 20, 2008.
  17. ^ "Ivor Royston, Adventures in Biotechnology", Dionisio, Jennifer. Chemical Heritage Newsmagazine, Spring 2007, Vol. 25, No. 1. Accessed June 20, 2008.
  18. ^ "Ivor Royston, Adventures in Biotechnology", Dionisio, Jennifer. Chemical Heritage Newsmagazine, Spring 2007, Vol. 25, No. 1. Accessed June 20, 2008.
  19. ^ a b "Ivor Royston, Producer", Internet Broadway Database, 2006. Accessed June 20, 2008.
  20. ^ "2005 Annual Report", The San Diego Foundation, 2005. Accessed June 20, 2008.
  21. ^ "Ivor and Colette Royston Research Program Award", Johns Hopkins University, 2002. Accessed June 20, 2008.
  22. ^ "Dr. Ivor Royston, CONNECT Hall of Fame Inductee", CONNECT.org, Nov. 8, 2006. Accessed June 20, 2008.
  23. ^ "CONNECT Inducts Dr. Ivor Royston into Entrepreneur Hall of Fame", Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News, June 14, 2006. Accessed June 20, 2008.
  24. ^ "2008 Visionary Awards", LEAD San Diego, March 25, 2008. Accessed June 20, 2008.
  25. ^ "Royston's risks pay off with award", Bell, Diane. The San Diego Union-Tribune, April 11, 2006. Accessed June 20, 2008.

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