Founder and former CEO and president of MediciNova, Inc.
Takashi Kiyoizumi had more experience in an operating room than a board room when he first came to MIT Sloan. A physician in Tokyo, Kiyoizumi specialized in reconstructive surgery. He enjoyed the systematic process of diagnosing his patients and their treatment; however, as an analytical thinker, he did not agree with the disorganized manner in which the hospitals were managed at that time. Eager to bring the management principles of the business world to the non-profit industry of healthcare, Kiyoizumi applied to MIT Sloan.
Kiyoizumi learned how to improve healthcare management practices while at the School, but he was also amazed by the many other businesses flourishing in Kendall Square. “It was intriguing to be in Cambridge in the early '90s when many biotech companies were sprouting,” he explains. “I was inspired to see people investing money into these companies that had no physical product. They were creating a new business model around intellectual properties.”
During the summer of 1990, Kiyoizumi landed an internship at a local biotech company, ImmuLogic Pharmaceutical Corp. After many years working in hospitals, he was skeptical that he would enjoy working for a corporation, until he discovered that small biotech firms were about 90 percent scientists and 10 percent business executives. Kiyoizumi enjoyed the fast-paced environment and close contact with topnotch physicians and state-of-the-art medicine. He also appreciated the ability to work side by side with its CEO. After graduation, instead of returning to the healthcare industry in Japan, Kiyoizumi became a manager for ImmuLogic. By 2000, he had established himself as a strong player in the industry, taking a position at another biotech firm, Indevus Pharmaceuticals Inc. (formerly known as Interneuron Pharmaceuticals Inc.) in Lexington, where he served as a senior vice president.
“I was older than most of my peers when I graduated from MIT Sloan, but remaining in Boston allowed me to learn much more about the biotech industry at a faster rate. It was like a high-quality residency program for the business of the biotech industry,” Kiyoizumi jokes.
In 2000, he moved to the West Coast. “I was offered a position as CEO of Tanabe Research Laboratories, which doesn't come by every day,” Kiyoizumi laughs. “It was a near perfect job for me, a nice blend of my medical background, my business experience, and my Japanese roots.” Eventually, Tanabe asked Kiyoizumi to create an American spinoff to their research group. As a result, he founded MediciNova, Inc. (NASDAQ: MNOV), a specialty pharmaceutical company for which he raised $184 million in venture capital rounds and its initial public offering. During his time as CEO, he also built a portfolio of seven NCE (new chemical entities) programs.
Kiyoizumi retired from his position at MediciNova in 2005, but it did not mark the end of his time working in the biotech field. He is a member of Life Science Angels, a group of executives and experienced investors interested in providing early-stage funding for fledgling life science companies. Investing in and advising these small startups takes up about half of his time now. He spends the rest of his days tutoring young cello students, performing in the Palomar Symphony Orchestra as principle cellist, and serving as director of the board for the San Diego Symphony Orchestra. Kiyoizumi played, of course, with the MIT Symphony Orchestra while he was a student at MIT Sloan.
Looking back, Kiyoizumi recognizes how much his time in Cambridge shaped his future. “MIT Sloan changed my life,” he says. He also names Lester Thurow, the School's dean when he attended, as an inspiration and contributor to his success as an entrepreneur. “It was amazing to be at the School when he was dean. His thinking is dynamic, and his vision is very inspiring. It was a treat to attend his class and to see the big picture of what was going on in the world and in business.”