Q&A with Stephen Ghiglieri, Managing Director

Published by Big4Bio SFBay

Big4Bio:  As an experienced finance and operations executive, what attracted you to the life sciences?

I have spent the majority of my career in life sciences, but it was a departure to the tech industry in the early 2000s that really reinforced my appreciation for this space. It comes down to the sense of purpose and “greater good.”  I’ve been lucky to have been a part of companies whose products were approved and commercialized. To attend a conference and actually speak with patients whose lives have been touched – there’s nothing better.  

It’s also reasonably unique how this industry cooperates with each other. I never had an issue picking up the phone and calling a competitor for advice, and that’s true on the science side and the business side. If someone has a better mousetrap that can help people, there is support, there is knowledge sharing and a sense of collegiality that I haven’t found elsewhere.

Big4BioGiven the proliferation of life science startups, what is a piece of advice to first-time CEOs or CFOs?

Don’t get too excited. The path to success in life sciences is never a straight line. You’ll have wins and you’ll have failures, and it’s important not to get overly jubilant about the former or too down about the latter. Our role as corporate officers is to plan for both.

I’d also advise that they not focus solely on one result. Diversification is important, though it can be challenging – particularly with investors wanting to see one focus. But for the company, there are often multiple ways to move forward and build value apart from a clinical trial, whether through other indications or applications for a platform technology.

Ultimately, you win or lose with the science. It takes a certain type of person willing to persevere in the face of risk. In the role of CFO I make sure my team has everything they need, but I cannot affect the scientific outcome.

Big4Bio: How do you build and position teams to achieve their best? 

I really enjoy mentoring people and helping them find the right path. That requires a quality of listening and a quality of empathy – to dial oneself back and act as a sounding board. In that regard, the best advice I’ve received is “don’t speak first.” Listen to everyone else in the room. Then, my job is to help people see paths forward, or to give them different ways to think about the path. 

Big4Bio:  How does this relate to the work you do at Danforth Advisors?

Joining Danforth gives me the opportunity to do what I love and take what I’ve learned and populate it across many different places; so I’m not helping one company or team on a full-time basis, but rather many companies and teams – all working towards improving patients’ lives. I can be a sounding board and a strategic thought partner with no axe to grind – I’m not a board member or an investor. I also bring the knowledge and perspective of someone who has run all of the operational functions – finance, regulatory, manufacturing, commercial, etc.

Click here to access the full article.