10 Questions for Ivor Royston

Founding President, Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center

Dr. Royston is a founding managing partner of Forward Ventures, one of San Diego’s leading life science venture capital firms. From 1990 to 2000, he served as the founding president and CEO of the non-profit Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center, where he remains a member of the board of trustees. From 1978 to 1990, he was on the faculty of the medical school and cancer center at the UCSD. In 1978, Royston was a co-founder of Hybritech, Inc., San Diego’s first biotechnology company, and in 1986, he co-founded IDEC Corporation, which merged with Biogen to form BiogenIdec.

Royston is the founding chairman of TargeGen. He also serves on the public board of directors of Avalon Pharmaceuticals and Favrille, where he was the founding chairman. In 2006, Royston was inducted into the San Diego Entrepreneur Hall of Fame. Also, in 2006, Royston received a Tony Award for Producer of Best Musical, “Jersey Boys.”

Q: What brought you to La Jolla?

After completing my post-doctoral fellowship in medical oncology at Stanford University, I was offered a job as assistant professor of medicine at UCSD. When I was told I could be on the “ground floor” of a new cancer center that was under development at UCSD and with start-up research funds, I grabbed the opportunity and moved to La Jolla and left my true love (Colette) behind at Stanford.

Q: What makes La Jolla special to you?

Because I have a passion for medical innovation and theater, La Jolla cannot be beat. It’s now the top biotechnology area in the world, with a great entrepreneurial spirit, and one of the best regional theaters in the country. Oh yes, the weather is great, the coastline beautiful, and I can bicycle year round.

Q: If you could snap your fingers and have it done, what might you add, subtract or improve in La Jolla?

I would have a UCSD football team and basketball team.

Q: Who or what inspires you?

I am inspired by the many creative scientists and physicians on the La Jolla Torrey Pines Mesa who are developing new approaches to treating diseases with unmet need. I am also receiving inspiration in the theatre at the La Jolla Playhouse when the curtain rises and I am transported into another world.

Q: If you hosted a dinner party for eight, who (living or deceased) would you


My grandparents (that’s four), who died before I was born, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt.

Q: Tell us about what you are currently reading.

“The Wall Street Diet” by Heather Bauer (I have to lose weight; her agent is Margret McBride of La Jolla); theatrical scripts (currently “Memphis” coming to the La Jolla Playhouse in September).

Q: What is your most prized possession?

Our Keeshund dog, named Kano.

Q: What do you do for fun?

Bicycling, movies, theatre and music.

Q: Please describe your greatest accomplishment.

Besides getting Colette to marry me, I would say it was the founding of Hybritech, which developed the PSA test for prostate cancer, and Idec, which developed the first antibody therapy for cancer.

Q: What is your motto or philosophy of life?

There are three types of people in the world: 1) those who make things happen, 2) those who watch things happen, and 3) those who ask – what happened? Life is much more fulfilling if you are of the first type.