When Steve Truong, WG’21, came to Wharton’s MBA Program for Executives, his primary goal was to gain the knowledge and network to turn his idea into a business. Fast forward two years, Steve is now cofounder, president, and CFO of BioPhy, a healthcare fintech firm. Two of his classmates, Dave Latshaw, WG’21, and Dr. Dan Sciubba, WG’21, are cofounders. Steve credits the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Wharton for helping him accomplish his goal. “I wouldn’t be building this company without having gone to Wharton’s EMBA program. The classes and meeting people like Dave and Dan unlocked all kinds of opportunities,” he said.
Steve’s entrepreneurship journey began five years ago, when he began to focus on the idea of “fighting cancer with finance.” By redirecting capital to the most impactful clinical-stage therapeutics, Steve thought, he could help get those drugs to market faster, benefiting both patients and investors. At the time, he was running financial planning and analysis at an alternative asset manager, so he spent his nights and weekends perfecting the idea. The concept and the numbers worked; he just needed the right partners.
Dave, a world-renowned artificial intelligence expert from Johnson & Johnson, also came to Wharton to impact his career, although he never planned on becoming an entrepreneur. “My goal was to bridge the gap between business and technology in biopharmaceuticals, and ultimately find a way to use artificial intelligence to impact patient lives.”
Dan, a medical professor and neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins, came to Wharton to disrupt the field of healthcare. “To make a real impact, we need a combination of the best minds in business and healthcare.” So, how did an aspiring entrepreneur connect with an artificial intelligence expert and neurosurgeon to launch a healthcare fintech company? It began at a bowling alley.
“It was the second week of school, and our class went bowling,” Steve explained. “I was chatting with classmates about why I came to Wharton and my idea to use finance to fight cancer. As I was explaining my idea, I overheard Dave behind me begin explaining how he could use an algorithm to identify the most promising clinical-stage drug candidates. Dave and I put our ideas together and BioPhy was born.”
Soon after that night, Steve and Dave met Dan at a classmate’s birthday party. Dan had spent the previous 10 years as a Spinal Oncologist and Professor of Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Medical. Dan was searching for new ideas and, when Dave and Steve shared their vision, Dan was excited to provide his medical perspective and join the team.
Diving into Entrepreneurship
During their time at Wharton, the cofounders enrolled in entrepreneurship classes and used that time to apply what they learned directly to BioPhy.
“My healthcare and entrepreneurship classes confirmed the challenges and opportunities I saw in the space, and that gave me confidence to move forward,” Steve said. “I also got feedback on the ideas from classmates and faculty, which further boosted my confidence.”
Dave agreed that the classes were helpful in giving him the confidence to start his own business. “Through classes like corporate finance,” he explained, “I learned how to evaluate different opportunities and weigh their potential business implications. I also talked with Wharton’s Executive-in-Residence and professors who affirmed our approach and I started using the concepts from every class I took to shape our business.”
“It’s an amazing ecosystem at Wharton,” Dan added. “It allowed us to constantly learn from people outside of class, including alumni and connections made by our classmates and professors. Every entrepreneur we met spent time talking with us to help prepare us for this path.”
Launching the Business
At the end of 2019, the cofounders officially launched BioPhy, a healthcare fintech firm with a mission to apply AI-driven insights, such as predicting the outcomes of clinical trials, to the investment management space.
“A lot of people talk about the rising cost of R&D to move drugs through clinical development. The majority, if not all, of the effort is focused on bringing down those costs by making the process more efficient, but we are approaching this problem from a completely different angle. Using our technology, we believe we can direct capital towards drugs that have the highest potential to make the most positive impact on patients and generate returns for investors. This way we bring down the cost of R&D by simply avoiding the paths that lead to failure,” said Dave.
“By marrying technology that predicts the outcomes of clinical trials with our disciplined investment process,” Steve added, “We have built an AI-enhanced biotechnology asset manager designed to fundamentally change how biotechnology investing is done.
BioPhy is currently launching their first fund, the BioPhy Capital Growth Fund, and is gaining traction with both investors and the media. All three cofounders agreed that they would not be where they are today without having come to Wharton.
“Wharton allowed me to fill in the gaps that my scientific career had created so that I could make the jump to entrepreneurship,” said Dave.
“Entrepreneurship is turbo charged at Wharton because of the ecosystem and support. It helped us go from zero to 60, and the benefits of Wharton will last a lifetime,” said Dan.
Steve added, “Wharton provided the opportunity to meet classmates like Dave and Dan, whom I would never have met otherwise. It has been a transformational experience.”
— By Meghan Laska
Posted: March 11, 2022