The Business of Biotechnology: Advanced Concepts Short Course, Spring 2020

BOSTON, MARCH 2-11, 2020

RA Capital's Spring 2020 course is currently full. Our next course will run in Fall 2020.

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  • LOCATION: Back Bay, Boston, MA
  • COST: Free
  • LECTURER: Peter Kolchinsky, Ph.D, Managing Partner, RA Capital
  • TEACHING ASSISTANTS: Jessica Sagers, Ph.D., Monica Stanciu, Ph.D., Ben Hicks


  • Pre-Course Reception: Wednesday, Feb. 12, 5:30-7:00 PM
  • Session 1: Monday, March 2, 2:00-5:00 PM
  • Session 2: Wednesday, March 4, 2:00-5:00 PM
  • Session 3: Monday, March 9, 2:00-5:00 PM
  • Session 4: Wednesday, March 11, 2:00-5:00 PM
  • PREP/READING TIME: Approx. 20-30 hours

"This course teaches new lenses through which to view biotech advancements...."

- Nicole Black

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Who is this for and why should you take this course?

So much of what’s important to success in the biotechnology sector is not as it seems – we have watched many people (including ourselves) learn difficult lessons through trial and error. This seems inefficient and possibly unnecessary. We believe that by exposing people with the potential to be this industry’s future leaders to advanced concepts they might otherwise only learn later in their careers, they will better navigate the biotechnology industry and more quickly achieve their potential.

Our goal is to focus on concepts that are not yet taught in other biotechnology courses. For example, drug pricing influences R&D yet is widely misunderstood; biotech business models that seem more stable can actually make a company more risky for both employees and investors than business models that may appear less stable; and entrepreneurs often struggle to reconcile the straightforward economic promises of the business plans they are pitching with the obscure behavioral economics that govern how investors often make decisions.

We can probably all remember a single course, a single lecture, or even a single book that fundamentally changed our thinking and repeatedly guides our decisions. That’s the kind of course we have designed: a short, intense upgrade for people planning on a career in or related to biotechnology, whether in companies, as investors, as lawyers, academic founders, or government.


This course is primarily intended for late-stage graduate students and early-career working professionals. No prior business knowledge is necessary, but students must have an advanced background in life sciences or healthcare (BS + 5 yrs experience; PhD or MD graduate up to three years post-graduation; or currently enrolled in a doctorate program within 2 years of finishing). Business and law students may apply if they have a strong background in biomedical science. Not for current undergrads.

Application Requirements

Application is available through Google Forms and requires a one-sentence pitch, a 500-1000 word personal statement, and attachment of a CV/resume. Instructions for each of these components are included in the application form. To submit an application through Google Forms, you must log into a Google account. Users do not necessarily need Gmail addresses; any Google account will do (e.g. institutional users of Google Apps for Education should be able to access the form without issues). If you do not have a Google account, please email

Notification of Admission: We’ll notify applicants whether they have been admitted to the course by January 27, 2020.


Drug Pricing & The Biotech Social Contract


Read a book about the biotech social contract and then, through that lens, write a short analysis/rebuttal of an article critical of biotech drug pricing practices.


Monday, March 2, 2020, 2:00-5:00 PM

Come prepared to discuss your analysis of the drug pricing article you read (where do you agree with the author and what do you think the author got wrong?). We’ll discuss how companies and investors think about drug pricing when they are considering whether to pursue a program. You’ll come away appreciating the implications of getting drug pricing reforms wrong and also gain an understanding of which forms of price controls would actually make the industry more vibrant.


Competitive Strategy, Gap Analysis, and Acquisitions


Relevant articles and a glossary of financing terms.


Wednesday, March 4, 2020, 2:00-5:00 PM

We’ll walk through a comprehensive analysis of the Hepatitis C development landscape to examine the sheer hustle in the complex game of M&A chess that led to a cure. You’ll come away appreciating how a company should think about constructing a pipeline in which there is at least some synergy among programs as opposed to the whole being worth less than the sum of its parts. We’ll also examine M&A in the oncology landscape, focusing on learning to identify gaps and targets in company pipelines and developing an appreciation of why large pharma can find small biotech companies affordable.


Valuation Basics: Stable and Unstable Business Models


Relevant articles, a case study, and an NPV model exercise.


Monday, March 9, 2020, 2:00-5:00 PM

We’ll use a case study to demonstrate how a company that appears diversified may actually not be and how a successful clinical result can imperil a pipeline. We’ll talk through an NPV model together and you’ll leave understanding what to value in such a model versus what to skeptically appraise.

Session 4

Funding the Early-Stage Pitch


Relevant articles.


Wednesday, March 11, 2020, 2:00-5:00 PM

Using real-world examples from RA Capital’s deal flow, we’ll discuss what makes or breaks an early-stage pitch. You’ll get the opportunity to sit in the investor’s seat and learn what kinds of data and business plans are more likely to secure funding.


Wednesday, March 11, 2020, 5:30-7:30 PM

After the final lecture, we’ll have dinner and a tour of RA Capital with a demonstration of how we use our TechAtlas competitive landscape maps to identify technologies and companies that we think are compelling.