Yea. Not your typical healthcare VC. Photo courtesy Christopher Michel.

Michelle Dipp Wants to Make A Difference

How a nurse’s kid from El Paso failed her way to Oxford Medical School, started 5 companies, and became a Venture Capitalist.

My guest this week is healthcare VC superstar Michelle Dipp. Dr. Dipp is a co-founder and Partner of Longwood Fund, having co-founded Longwood portfolio companies Axial Biotherapeutics and OvaScience, where she served as founding CEO. She now serves as Chairman of both companies. She previously cofounded Alnara Pharmaceuticals (acquired by Eli Lilly), Verastem (NASDAQ: VSTM), and FlexPharma (NASDAQ: FLKS), a remarkable track record of success for a remarkable human being.

As a young girl growing up in El Paso Texas, though, she dreamed of being a professional ballerina. She worked diligently at it for 8 years — studying under a Balanchine dancer from age 4 — before two attempts at New York auditions ended in heartbreak. Six years of strict Catholic school later, she failed again… this time to get into Harvard, which had become her “dream school” after coming to terms with her mother’s loving but pragmatic advice on ballet and on life. “Sometimes no matter how hard you work,” she said, “you’re just not going to be good enough. And you need to get over it.”

Near as I can tell, Michelle Dipp was never not good enough for anything again. Her undergrad experience at her safety school — Oxford — turned into 12 years of study abroad, culminating in a stint as a first class medical researcher. Her work, energy, and leadership skills garnered first the attention and then the high regard of both Big Pharma and Big Private Equity. Driven to the cutting edge of medical science, she used her power and influence to develop promising new platforms into a series of companies that would make any VC salivate. In her spare time she helped build the venture capital firm that would spawn them all — Longwood Fund — whose mission “to identify technologies and found companies that will advance new therapeutics that not only make a difference in the lives of patients worldwide, but also create significant value for investors.”

Michelle Dipp wants it all. She wants what her mom had, which as a nurse in a Texas border town was to make a difference in the lives of real people across a broad spectrum of cultural and socioeconomic circumstances. And she wants what her dad had too, which is to build and lead businesses that make a difference in the community of which they are a part.

That’s what Michelle Dipp wants. And now there is no doubt she is good enough to get it.

The Dipster. No one calls her this, but I really like it.

In our second segment this week Michelle and I talked about the differences, similarities, and inevitable convergence of the two great tribes of the Boston innovation ecosystem, Healthcare and Tech. Using the example of her latest project, Axial Biotherapeutics, Michelle explains how new treatment “platforms” come about on the healthcare side, and the process by which enterprising entrepreneurs turn promising scientific breakthroughs into therapies that help people in the real world.

While an obvious rock star, Michelle is also a delight to spend time with. I think you’ll really enjoy getting to know her, in particular the person behind the pedigree. When you do, PLEASE Like us here on Medium and consider sliding us a quick 5-star rating in iTunes, it really helps spread the word. You can also treat the symptoms of Stage 5 #FOMO by subscribing right now on Soundcloud, iTunes, Stitcher, or Pocket Casts.

Enjoy, and be sure and let us know what you think in the comments below.

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