Michelle Dipp

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Michelle Dipp, M.D., Ph.D., (b ca. 1976)[1] is a biotech business executive and venture capitalist. As of 2017 she was co-founder and executive chairwoman of OvaScience, an In vitro fertilisation services and company, and founder and partner of Longwood Fund, a healthcare venture capital firm.


Michelle Dipp was raised in El Paso, Texas and earned her MD and PhD from the University of Oxford; her dissertation was on pulmonary hypertension.[2][3]


After graduating from Oxford, Dipp went to work for Wellcome Trust in its private equity division.[4] Wellcome was an early investor in Sirtris Pharmaceuticals,[5] which was founded in 2004 by scientist David Sinclair, venture capitalist Christoph Westphal, serial entrepreneur Andrew Perlman, Richard Aldrich, Richard Pops, and Paul Schimmel.[6][7] The company focused on resveratrol formulations and derivatives as activators of the SIRT1 enzyme.[6][6][8] The company's initial product was called SRT501, and was a formulation of resveratrol.[9] Westphal and Sinclair aggressively marketed investment in the company as an anti-aging opportunity, which was controversial[6][10] but effective; the company raised $100 million in 2006.[10]

Westphal recruited Dipp to join Sirtris in 2005 and she became the Vice President of Corporate Development.[5]

Sirtris went public in 2007 and was subsequently purchased and made a subsidiary of GlaxoSmithKline in 2008 for $720 million; Westphal remained CEO of the subsidiary and was also appointed senior vice president of GSK's Center of Excellence for External Drug Discovery (CEEDD).[11]

In 2008, Dipp worked with Westphal, Aldrich, and Alexey Margolin to found Alnara Pharmaceuticals, which was created to develop ways to formulate biopharmaceuticals so they could be taken by mouth, instead of by injection.[5][12] Margolin had been CEO of Altus Therapeutics, which had been developing liprotamase, which it had licensed from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, but ran out of money. Alnara acquired the license and focused its resources on further developing liprotamase; Eli Lilly and Company acquired Alnara in July 2010 on the promise of that data acquired by Alnara.[13] Lilly submitted a new drug application to the FDA in 2011, which the FDA rejected, finding no clear benefit over existing products and requiring an additional clinical trial.[14] Lilly took a $122.6 million write-down on the value of the asset, and then sold it to Anthera Pharmaceuticals in 2014.[14]

In February 2010, Dipp, Westphal, and Aldrich formed a new venture fund called Longwood Founders Fund.[15][16]

In April 2010, Westphal stepped down as CEO of Sirtris. Dipp took over as senior vice president of CEEDD; this made her the youngest senior VP in all of the world's top ten pharmaceutical companies.[5][17]

Also in August 2010, the Longwood team co-founded VeraStem by providing seed funding and office space its offices, with Westphal serving as CEO and chairman of the board; Verastem aimed to isolate cancer stem cells and then discover drugs that would selectively kill them.[18][19] The company held its IPO in 2012.[19]

GSK/Sirtris terminated development of SRT501 in late 2010.[20][21] In 2013 GSK shut down Sirtris and its development candidates were absorbed into GSK, where research and development continued.[11][22][23]

In 2011 Dipp co-founded OvaScience with Aldrich, Westphal, and Sinclair, along with scientist Jonathan Tilly, based on scientific work done by Tilly concerning mammalian oogonial stem cells and work on mitochondria by Sinclair.[24][25] Tilly's work was controversial, with some groups unable to replicate it.[26][27] The company's claims about its services were also controversial from their first announcements.[28] The company's A financing round was $6 million and it raised a $37 million B round in early 2012; Longwood participated in both rounds.[29] OvaScience held its public offering in 2012, and part of its pitch to investors was that its services would probably not be regulated by the FDA so it would probably be able to start generating significant revenue in the US by the end of 2013, but in 2013 the FDA ruled that it would need to file an investigational new drug application before it could start marketing the service; OvaScience's shares fell 40% in response.[30] In 2016 OvaScience hired a new CEO and Dipp became executive chairwoman.[1] By September 2016 OvaScience had raised and spent around $228 million.[25] In early December its shares were trading at around $3; in mid-December 2016 the company's shares fell around 50% when it announced layoffs and the departure of the CEO and chief operating officer in the face of sales continuing to fall below expectations.[31] Dipp stepped back in as acting CEO while the company searched for new management.[32]

In January 2015 Longwood and Dipp helped found Flex Pharma[33] Later that year she was named as one of Fortune Magazine's "40 under 40"[34] and was also named one of 187 "Young Global Leaders" by the World Economic Forum,[35]

In November 2016 Dipp and Longwood helped launch Axial Biotherapeutics, which aimed to modulate the gut-brain axis to treat neurological diseases; its strategy at launch was open with company considering developing drugs to influence the gut microbiota as well as probiotics; Dipp took a board seat.[36]

Dipp was appointed to the governing board of the Biotechnology Industry Organization’s Emerging Companies section in December 2013.[37] By the end of 2013 she and Westphal had joined the approximately 100 overseers of the Boston Symphony Orchestra; BSO overseers advise the Board of Trustees on various matters including fundraising.[38][39] In October 2014 she joined the board of directors of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.[40] By 2015 she had joined the board of directors of the New England Venture Capital Association.[41]


  1. ^ a b Seiffert, Don (January 6, 2016). "Michelle Dipp to step aside as OvaScience CEO in July". Boston Business Journal. 
  2. ^ Kirsner, Scott (October 14, 2012). "Michelle Dipp of OvaScience leading new generation of biotech CEO’s". The Boston Globe. 
  3. ^ Gray, Robert (June 13, 2016). "El Paso’s biotech wunderkind Michelle Dipp". El Paso Inc. 
  4. ^ McBride, Ryan. "Dr. Michelle Dipp - Women in Biotech 2012". FierceBiotech. 
  5. ^ a b c d McBride, Ryan (22 April 2010). "Sirtris Vet Michelle Dipp Takes Over Key Role at Glaxo as Westphal Returns to VC". Xconomy. 
  6. ^ a b c d Couzin, J (27 February 2004). "Scientific community. Aging research's family feud.". Science. 303 (5662): 1276–9. PMID 14988530. doi:10.1126/science.303.5662.1276. 
  7. ^ "Sirtris S-1 Registration for IPO". Sirtris via SEC Edgar. March 1, 2007. 
  8. ^ Wade, Nicholas (17 August 2009). "Tests Begin on Drugs That May Slow Aging". The New York Times. 
  9. ^ McBride, Ryan (12 August 2010). "Former Sirtris Execs' Nonprofit Starts Selling Resveratrol with Potential Anti-Aging Effects Online". Xconomy. 
  10. ^ a b Davies, Kevin (April 26, 2010). "Christoph Westphal Dishes on Aging and Pharmageddon". www.bio-itworld.com. 
  11. ^ a b Carroll, John; McBride, Ryan (Mar 12, 2013). "UPDATED: GSK moves to shutter Sirtris' Cambridge office, integrate R&D". FierceBiotech. 
  12. ^ Timmerman, Luke (30 October 2008). "Alnara Pharmaceuticals Aims to Make Biotech Drugs You Can Swallow, And That Go Right Where They Belong". Xconomy. 
  13. ^ "Alnara's Late-Stage Pancreatic Enzyme Drives Lilly Acquisition". BioWorld. July 6, 2010. 
  14. ^ a b "Anthera Buys Liprotamase from Lilly, Plans Phase III Trial". GEN Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News. July 15, 2014. 
  15. ^ Timmerman, Luke (12 February 2010). "Sirtris Founders Build New Venture Capital Fund, Keep Mum". Xconomy. 
  16. ^ McBride, Ryan (6 January 2011). "Rich Aldrich, Biotech Powerbroker, Breaks Silence on New $87M Longwood Founders Fund". Xconomy. 
  17. ^ McBride, Ryan (21 April 2010). "Christoph Westphal Resigns as Sirtris CEO, Takes Over Glaxo's SR One Venture Arm". Xconomy. 
  18. ^ "S-1, Amendment 3". Verastem via SEC EDGAR. 2012-01-13. 
  19. ^ a b Fidler, Ben (6 June 2013). "Verastem Switches CEOs as Westphal Steps Into Chairman Role". Xconomy. 
  20. ^ Wade, Nicholas (10 January 2011). "Doubt on Anti-Aging Molecule as Resveratrol Trial Is Halted". The New York Times. 
  21. ^ "GlaxoSmithKline Halts All Further Development Of Resveratrol Drug SRT501". Myeloma Beacon. November 30, 2010. 
  22. ^ "GSK absorbs controversial ‘longevity’ company : News blog". Nature Blog. 
  23. ^ Timmerman, Luke (12 March 2013). "GlaxoSmithKline Shuts Down Sirtris, Five Years After $720M Buyout". Xconomy. 
  24. ^ "OvaScience S-1". OvaScience via SEC Edgar. August 29, 2012. 
  25. ^ a b Weintraub, Karen (December 29, 2016). "Fertility company Ovascience is struggling to survive". MIT Technology Review. 
  26. ^ Grieve, Kelsey M.; McLaughlin, Marie; Dunlop, Cheryl E.; Telfer, Evelyn E.; Anderson, Richard A. "The controversial existence and functional potential of oogonial stem cells". Maturitas. 82 (3): 278–281. doi:10.1016/j.maturitas.2015.07.017. 
  27. ^ Powell, K (15 June 2006). "Born or made? Debate on mouse eggs reignites.". Nature. 441 (7095): 795. PMID 16778853. doi:10.1038/441795a. 
  28. ^ Boyd, Roddy (April 6, 2015). "Irreproducible Results, Inc.". Southern Investigative Reporting Foundation. 
  29. ^ "OvaScience grabs $37M B round for fertility treatments". FierceBiotech. April 3, 2012. 
  30. ^ Carroll, John (September 11, 2013). "OvaScience shares blitzed after FDA steps in to supervise lead product". FierceBiotech. 
  31. ^ Weisman, Robert (December 22, 2016). "OvaScience shares plunge amid layoffs, abrupt departure of top executives". Boston Globe. 
  32. ^ Stendahl, Max (January 13, 2017). "Troubled fertility biotech OvaScience offers CFO cash bonus not to leave". 
  33. ^ Fidler, Ben (28 January 2015). "Investors Line up For Westphal as Muscle Cramp Startup Upsizes IPO". Xconomy. 
  34. ^ Roberts, Daniel; Gallagher, Leigh (24 September 2015). "Michelle Dipp". Fortune. 
  35. ^ Aikman, David (17 March 2015). "Press Release: Meet the 2015 class of Young Global Leaders". World Economic Forum. 
  36. ^ Fidler, Ben (30 November 2016). "With $19M, Axial Becomes Latest Startup to Target Gut-Brain Connection". Xconomy. 
  37. ^ "Press Release: OvaScience CEO Michelle Dipp M D Ph D Joins Biotechnology Industry Organizations Board Of Directors". OvaScience via Biospace. 9 December 2013. 
  38. ^ "Boston Symphony Orchestra, Inc. Annual Report 2012–13" (PDF). Boston Symphony Orchestra, Inc. 2014. 
  39. ^ "Press Release: Boston Symphony Orchestra Announces New Board Leadership and 2014 Class of Trustees and Overseers". BSO. July 15, 2014. 
  40. ^ "Press Release: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Names Six to Board of Directors". Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. 2 October 2014. 
  41. ^ "The NEVCA Board". New England Venture Capital Association. Archived from the original on 27 September 2015.