Riding the Next Great Wave: Stephen Quinn

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Biomedical-startup expert Stephen Quinn's phenomenal journey over the past two decades may inspire people who are new to the world of biotechnology. Twenty years ago, he did software testing. Today, Quinn oversees a biomedical incubator. He is the CEO and managing director of Ratner Biomedical Group (RBG), an intellectual property firm dedicated to the fields of biocompatible materials, tissue engineering, and drug delivery.


Here are a few of Quinn’s accomplishments:

  • He is on the board of directors for Ratner Biomedical Group LLC, Healionics Corporation, and Calcionics Corporation.

  • He is advisor to the board for Lagotek Corporation and was Lagotek’s first investor.

  • He is also part of a private-equity venture called “Portfolio Effect LLC.”

  • He serves on the biotech-screening committee for Alliance of Angels and is a member of the Data Warehousing Institute.

  • In 2004, he co-founded Portfolio Effect LLC, a Puget Sound-based private-equity partnership.

  • He was involved with the IPO processes of three different technology start-up companies in the Bay Area: Macromedia, Quintus, and Actuate.

Quinn earned an M.A. in Psychology from California State University, Chico. During his years there, Quinn developed a passion for life science while studying biological and cognitive psychology. He enjoyed being in the company of people who shared his passion for science. Over the years, he developed a deep-rooted desire to be part of the next great wave in the field of regenerative medicine; i.e., tissue engineering, biomaterials, and wound healing.

After earning his M.A., Quinn attended New Mexico State University. Although he did not finish his Ph.D. program (mostly for financial reasons), it was a tremendous learning experience for him. After that, he received his MBA from the University of Washington. Quinn has no regrets about being a professional student for so many years. Learning has always been important to him. Learning was part of his determination and passion for becoming part of the next great wave.

Eventually, Quinn did become part of the first great wave of software development-what he now considers a “been-there-done-that” event. He enjoyed a 16-year career in the computer-software business, eight of which were spent at Microsoft, mostly in managerial roles. At that time, there was no money in psychology, and he couldn’t find job to match his credentials. Thus, this experience proved helpful for Quinn. Moving up the corporate ranks helped him prepare for his current job as a biomedical CEO.

Q. What do you do for fun?
A. I hang out with my two daughters, ages 1 and 11, respectively. Also, I am a book nut, not just reading them, but them collecting as well. If it involves interesting, arcane knowledge, all the better.

Q. What CD is in your CD player right now?
A. The Dixie Dregs' What If -yeah, it isn't the latest release or anything, but what awesome, timeless tunes. I like music with a groove.

Q. What is the last magazine you read?
A. Nature Biotechnology.

Q. What is your favorite TV show?
A. I buy college courses on DVD from "The Teaching Company" - right now I am really enjoying The Joy of Science by Robert Hazen; it is a little rudimentary, for me, but fun, nonetheless. Bob Briers' History of Egypt was a blast as well.

Q. Who is your role model?
A. The great elder statesman (previously) of P&G and Microsoft, Mr. Bob Herbold-he isn't really a statesman (not a senator or anything), but he does have the presence of one! What charisma that guy has-and when coupled with his practical approach to problem solving, he makes for a compelling executive.


“Mentors,” Quinn said, “have been critical to my success in life so far. I mean, in absolute terms, I am not a billionaire or anything, but considering where I was 20 years ago as a software tester to now, leading a biomedical incubator-that is quite a delta! A gentleman named John Ware really showed me the ropes at a company called Macromedia. To pay back John’s efforts, I have tried to mentor others throughout my career.”


Quinn has contributed to the fields of both software and biotechnology:
  • While at Microsoft, Quinn co-authored a book on SQL Server database software with Siva Harinath, Ph.D. The book required an incredible amount of work and took two years to complete. When people appreciate the book, it makes him feel good.

  • Quinn formed the “CEO's Board of Business Advisors” for RBG LLC in order to facilitate the exchange of ideas, knowledge, and experience with other front-runners in the biomedical field. He meets with the board every quarter.

What type of advice does Quinn have to offer young professionals in the field?

“Don’t expect it to be easy. Be a total informavore; devour all relevant information; and get the big picture on your industry and/or specialization. Oh, and by the way, specialization is where it’s at. Generalists generally get looked over; be an expert in something.”

Ladies and gentlemen: that was Stephen Quinn—the eternal informavore.
On the net:Professional SQL Server Analysis Services 2005 with MDX

Lagotek Corporation

Portfolio Effect LLC

Xanthus Communications LLC
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