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An Interview with Louis R. Bucalo

Christine O'Kelly
Aug 22, 2008
After receiving his medical degree from Stanford University, Louis R. Bucalo, CEO, Chairman, and President of Titan Pharmaceuticals began to work for early-stage biotech company Triton, now Berlex, as associate director of clinical research between 1987 and 1990. Louis R. Bucalo went on to work for South San Francisco-based Genentech as associate director for clinical research from 1990 to 1992. Louis Bucalo founded Titan in 1993.

Education: Mr. Bucalo earned his Bachelor of science degree in biochemistry from Harvard University; M.D., Stanford University.

Residence: San Francisco.

The essential business philosophy of Louis R. Bucalo: Maximize the hits. In Major League Baseball, if you only hit 15 percent of the time, you're cut.
If you hit 35 percent of the time, you're in the Hall of Fame.

Best way to keep competitive edge: Develop leading edge science and develop practical solutions.
Guiding principle: Choose inspiring goals, accumulate resources and set specific objectives.

Yardstick of success: People living longer with better quality of life because of therapies developed by Titan.

Goal yet to be achieved: We want people all over the world benefiting from our therapies.


Best business decision Louis Bucalo made: Forming global alliances with big pharmaceutical companies like Novartis and Schering AG that allowed us to grow. It was important because it multiplied our resources for our development programs.

Worst business decision: Not having several investment banking partners in the first year of operations. We had only one, and that slowed us down.

Toughest business decision: Passing on some exciting tech on bone marrow technology a few years ago. It was tough but right. The science was very exciting, but the development costs were very high.

Biggest missed opportunity: When I was at Genentech, I approached business development and advised them to spinout a product opportunity that could be better exploited, but the company wasn't ready to do that at the time. Later, they did.

Mentor: Sid Braginsky, founder of Olympus Opticals U.S. He was an inspiring example. He started with nothing and established a substantial company.
Word that best describes you: Relentless.


Like best about job: Working with some of the best medical scientists and doctors in the world.

Like least about job: Not being able to pursue all the treatments we're interested in. In our game, prioritization is essential.

Pet peeve: Wasted time whether through inefficient meetings or unnecessary emails.

Most important lesson learned: Get all the data and follow your instincts.

Person most interested in meeting: Leonardo da Vinci.
Most-respected competitor: Genentech. They were the first.

Three greatest passions: Science, family, music - I play keyboards and guitar.

First choice for a new career: Owning and running a top football or baseball team.

Favorite quote: "Don't go around saying the world owes you a living, the world owes you nothing. It was here first" - Mark Twain

Favorite causes: Freedom, Leukemia Society, Breast Cancer Society.

Most influential book: "Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin."

Favorite status symbol: Titan gave me a plaque last year commemorating the treatment of our first patient.

Favorite movie: "Cinema Paradiso."

Favorite restaurant: Pane e Vino, in San Francisco.

Favorite vacation spot: Capri or the Italian Riviera.

Favorite way to spend free time: Thinking of new business ideas.
About the Author
Christine OKelly is a business writer who publishes interviews with C-Level executives as a resource for aspiring business professionals.
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