Martin Brenner - iBio - Part 1

How Childhood Influences Shape Career Paths | Unexpected Crossovers Between Engineering & Veterinary Clinics | Eli Lilly Nurturing His Professional Development | Communication Can Make or Break Leadership

Find us on your favorite platform:
Apple PodcastsSpotifyYoutube

Show Notes

Part 1 of 3. My guest for this week’s episode is Martin Brenner, CEO and CSO of iBio. iBio uses its AI drug discovery platform to tackle complex and challenging drug targets to develop safer and more effective immunotherapies for difficult-to-treat cancers. Rather than leaving drug discovery to chance, iBio guides the process using artificial intelligence, making therapeutic development smarter, faster, and more precise. Martin is a seasoned executive and drug hunter with a unique journey spanning electrical engineering to veterinary medicine to scientific leadership roles. He has led drug discovery teams at several top global pharma companies, including Eli Lilly, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and Merck. Prior to his current role at iBio, Martin was VP and head of R&D at Stoke Therapeutics, CSO at Recursion, and CSO at Phoenix, which was eventually acquired by Ligon Pharmaceuticals. 

Join us as we sit down with Martin Brenner as he discusses his early years and upbringing in Germany, his transition from electrical engineering at Ulm University to veterinarian medicine at LMU Munich, and the practical experience he gained from working in veterinary clinics. Martin discusses the discovery of his passion for pharmacology, the pursuit of his Ph.D. at Hanover, and his exciting time and professional development at Eli Lilly.

Articles & Resources

People Mentioned

Episode Guest

Martin Brenner is CEO and CSO of iBio. IBio uses its AI drug discovery platform to tackle complex and challenging drug targets with the goal of developing safer and more effective immunotherapies for difficult-to-treat cancers. Rather than leaving drug discovery to chance, iBio guides the process using artificial intelligence, making therapeutic development smarter, faster, and more precise. Martin is a seasoned executive and drug hunter with a unique journey spanning electrical engineering to veterinary medicine to scientific leadership roles. He has led drug discovery teams at several top global pharma companies, including Eli Lilly, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and Merck. Prior to his current role at iBio, Martin was VP and head of R&D at Stoke Therapeutics, CSO at Recursion, and CSO at Phoenix, which was eventually acquired by Ligon Pharmaceuticals.

Martin Brenner
See all episode by 
Martin Brenner

Episode Transcript

A hand holding a question mark


Intro - 00:00:01:

Welcome to the Biotech Startups Podcast by Excedr. Join us as we speak with first-time founders, serial entrepreneurs, and experienced investors about the challenges and triumphs of running a biotech startup from pre-seed to IPO with your host, Jon Chee.

Jon - 00:00:23: My guest today is Martin Brenner, CEO and CSO of iBio. IBio uses its AI drug discovery platform to tackle complex and challenging drug targets with the goal of developing safer and more effective immunotherapies for difficult-to-treat cancers. Rather than leaving drug discovery to chance, iBio guides the process using artificial intelligence, making therapeutic development smarter, faster, and more precise. Martin is a seasoned executive and drug hunter with a unique journey spanning electrical engineering to veterinary medicine to scientific leadership roles. He has led drug discovery teams at several top global pharma companies, including Eli Lilly, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and Merck. Prior to his current role at iBio, Martin was VP and head of R&D at Stoke Therapeutics, CSO at Recursion, and CSO at Phoenix, which was eventually acquired by Ligon Pharmaceuticals. Over the next three episodes, we cover a wide range of topics, including Martin's upbringing in Germany, his decision to pursue a DVM and a PhD in pharmacology, his deep expertise with cardiovascular and metabolic diseases and diabetic complications. And his experience leading a modified mRNA therapeutics collaboration with Moderna. Today, we'll chat about Martin's early years, his transition from electrical engineering to veterinary medicine, the practical experience he gained from working in veterinary clinics, the discovery of his passion for pharmacology, the pursuit of his PhD, and his time at Eli Lilly. Without further ado, let's dive into this episode of the Biotech Startups podcast. Martin, so good to see you again. Thanks for coming on the podcast.

Martin - 00:01:49: Thank you so much for having me, Jon. Good seeing you again, too.

Jon - 00:01:52: Good to see you. So as my team and I were doing our homework and trying to find a fun place to start the conversation, we thought we would go back in time and really go as far back as possible. And as far as you're comfortable going to really learn from you what your upbringing was like and how it influenced your leadership style and business philosophy.

Martin - 00:02:12: Yeah, good point. So I think it's worth going back that far because again, my childhood did influence who I am today a lot. So I grew up in Stuttgart, Germany. Probably everybody will know it based on the two car manufacturers that are located there, Mercedes and Porsche. That's usually a simple introduction. So people know where the landscape is, but I grew up in relatively simple conditions. My dad went back to college at the time when I was born. My mom was working. So I spent a lot of time with my grandparents, which I'm grateful for. And so just to kind of tell you why I initially slid a lot into the engineering piece of my education was my dad's an engineer, electrical engineer. My uncle's a mechanical engineer. My grandpa on my mother's side was a car mechanic who taught himself and had his own shop. And my grandpa on the other side, my dad's side, he was an architect. So again, I was not pushed into that direction, but my whole family is kind of going that part. The whole region I grew up in is all about engineering. So I was a little bit biased and my mom and my dad tried to kind of unbiased me a little bit. So I had a chance as a child to do language travel. So I did a school exchange with France, with the UK. So I got fluent in English and in French. I lost most of my French, unfortunately, which is again, a perishable skill. And I was allowed to play an instrument. I learned classical guitar, switched later over to electric guitar, played blues and rock and roll. And also sports were a big part of my childhood. And exploring from day one was important. So from catching tadpoles and seeing how they became frogs and actually got loose in our small apartment belonged kind of to my childhood. And so my parents tried to kind of unbiased that a little bit. But of course, my idol at the time, my dad, was one of the key influences in my life. And so that's how I kind of got on the technical side of things first. And yeah, so from a perspective of growing up, I was really a late starter. There were so many things that were interesting for me. I never could focus on only one thing. And there were so many interesting things. And again, it led to a point in my life where it started to become something like, oh, my God, what am I supposed to do with my life. 

Jon - 00:04:17: Yeah, as it does.

Martin - 00:04:18: Yeah. So I got a little in a rebellious phase, or let's say a lot. And thanks to my parents never letting me down and always standing by me. And I went through that, right. And I think the most influential person in my life is my wife. And when I met her, suddenly, I was able to focus, right, I wanted to do something meaningful for her. She was my North Star still to this day. So that was really kind of what changed me. I'm a real late starter, right? Because I wasn't a really good student in high school. There were so many other things that were interesting. But once I got on that track, it got a lot easier, right? And it was not very consciously I got into electrical engineering, it was more kind of I was drifting in there because of my environment, right? And which is honestly a bad idea. But you know, you have to make the mistakes while you're young.

Jon - 00:05:02: Totally. I also had a similar rebelliousness, probably that's like a generous way of pushing back to a certain extent, and bless my parents hearts for dealing with me just being a brat. But I think like, it really resonates with me, kind of just like being able to explore and figuring it out a little bit later. Because I think ultimately, speaking from my personal experience, I still think about these like early early experiences, like going to punk shows, and being kind of in the music scene, and also just like having activities outside of school. And I think about it now. And I'm like, oh, there's aspects of that that still influenced me today like the creativity in the arts and music. So I really resonate with that. As you're kind of exploring and started to think about going to university, and you'd mentioned the drift into electrical engineering, what made you choose Ohm University? And did you know that right when you came in, that was the time when you kind of drifted into electrical engineering? Or did you have like a year or your freshman year, sophomore year where you're still kind of figuring it out?

Martin - 00:06:07: So I think it's important. To kind of explain, there's a big difference between the German university and college system and the US college system, right? In Germany, you actually commit on day one, you have to come in and say, I want to become an electrical engineer. And so you couldn't switch, you couldn't switch majors, right? And this was on the one hand, my problem. On the other hand, it was very helpful, because I couldn't really go back and forth. I had to make a decision at one point, right? That was kind of really a defining moment. And so I picked up one of my dad's formal textbooks, physics 101, right? And I never was a fan of just, cramming information into my brain. I needed to understand where it was coming from. How did people get to that, right? And this book just explained it so clearly to me, it was kind of eye-opening. And so I thought physics, electrical engineering, that's exactly where I wanted to go. And at the time, it just started the program. So it was brand new. It was led by the former head of R&D from Siemens. So this guy was a big shot. And he basically retired from Siemens, went into academia and built this huge facility. We were the first facilities to have 1024 computer clusters in the basement. And when I talk about a cluster, I meant there were 386 computers, 1024 of them in the basement, right? So I was there when the first email was sent, right? It was exciting. It was really exciting. And at the time, what we did most was very large system integration. At the time, I spent a little bit of time in 3D chip design. But at one point, I realized because they wanted to make this really elite program, it was new, it was supposed to do everything better than all of the other universities. And what happened was within our first week, we actually had math homework. And the math homework was literally what other universities used as an exam question two years into the program, right? So it was tough, right? And it helped me because I realized, look, I'm not at the top here, right? I mean, there were brilliantly smart people who were thrilled about this and excelled at what we were taught. But I was always kind of in the middle. And at one point, you start thinking, is this really what I want, right? And it was, this was a hard personal decision. Because again, all of my life was kind of geared towards engineering, right? And so to really stop and think really hard, what do you want to do? That was actually the first time in my life, I really kind of took almost a week off to really think about what I want to do really with my education, with my life. And it was hard, right? Because again, I didn't have any experience outside of the technical sector. I didn't have personal experiences. Apart from my tadpole experiment and a couple of pets that I had over the years, nothing actually connected me with veterinary medicine. But, I kind of got interested in it because I did a lot of looking around. I went to a med school kind of mixer and asked what people were doing. And med school didn't appeal to me. I mean, people I met there said, well, my dad, my grandpa, my great grandpa already were physicians. And I thought, okay. So the same thing happened to me in engineering. So why are you actually doing it? And so I really kind of did some soul searching. And then this time I knew I needed to kind of nail this, right? And so I actually spent two months in a veterinary clinic in Ulm, and I got lucky. I got really, really lucky. This guy, the head of this clinic, did crazy stuff. I mean, we treated kangaroos. I got to see how to fix a cruciate ligament that was ripped in dogs almost on a daily basis, right? Again, your technical skills from engineering come in place when you put titanium plates on a femur, right? Of a dog, right? So all of these skills kind of translated a little bit into this, right? And after these eight weeks, I felt like, wow, that's what I want to do. That's really exciting. And it was this promise of you wanting to treat camels and falcons in Africa. You want to treat crocodiles in a zoo. You want to treat cows and horses or become a companion animal surgeon. You had all these options, right? Which really kind of resonated with me. And that's how I ended up in veterinary medicine.

Jon - 00:09:54: That's so cool. And so it sounds like you had your clinic experience, and that ultimately was like what catalyzed your desire to go to veterinary school at LMU Munich. Can you talk a little about your experience while in veterinary school? And did it live up to your, your clinic expectations?

Martin - 00:10:10: It was very interesting because electrical engineering in my class, we had 104 people and four were women and the building was new. Everything was brand new. And then I switched to veterinary medicine in Munich and it was the LMU, Ludwig Maximilians University is very old. One of the traditional universities. So we literally had our lecture halls were cold. There was no heating. That's how old they were, right? And of course the ratio shifted completely. There were suddenly five male students versus, you know, 35 women. And so we have this very traditional way in Germany, how people get into veterinary medicine, right? You usually have a horse, you ride your horse, and then suddenly it's this kind of very dreamy thing of a veterinarian. And I knew this was not right, right? The job of a veterinarian is going hard, right? It's hard. First five years, you don't get vacation. You work night shifts. It's hard, right? It's really hard work. And so I came with that knowledge equipped. So I was always a little on the outside. I was always smiling when people were looking, with these dreamy eyes at what was to come. And I knew it's going to get hard, right? And when you go to law school after two years, there's this big, big separation, right? They have a massive exam after two years and basically about 60 to 80% fail, right? So you know already that most of the people that just have no idea what they're getting into, they're going to be gone, right? And it was brutal sometimes to see this, right? And I did not have the same college experience that most of my classmates had because I couldn't afford living in Munich, at the time. It was the second time I tried, right? So I took the train. I had to get up for six years at five in the morning, take the train to Munich, one and a half hours. Then I hopped over into the subway, another 15 minutes with the subway. And then I walked the last half mile to my faculty. And if you really, really, really want something in your life, you'll do that, right? And in the beginning, it helped me because I could study on the train, right? It was actually three hours a day on the train where I could really focus on studying. In the end, it just became really hard. And you know, I was like, I'm going to do this. I'm going to do this. I'm going to do this. You know, your immune system just crashes after a few years. You're just tired, always tired. But again, you do what you have to do. And you went through this. So my experience was not exactly like everybody else's. For me, it was way too much like high school. It was almost like school. You had your classes, you had to go. You couldn't elect anything. You needed to go, right? And so a lot of my colleagues at the time, they appreciate that. They just came off of high school, right? So for them, it was a continuation. For me, it was kind of annoying because I want to think for myself. And honestly, the first two years is just cramming knowledge in your head and regurgitating it, right? And it doesn't make good veterinarians. It just makes people who can memorize stuff really well. And I got good at this. I actually took part in a study. Psychological faculty had a study. You had to memorize numbers, right? Digits, five digits. You looked at them for five seconds. After a minute, you had to reproduce them. Then you got the 10 digit number. You had 10 seconds to look at that. And after a minute, reproduce that. And the last one was 15 digits. And I think I was one of three people only who could actually memorize and repeat the 15 digits. This is how it drills you, right? And it's a good part of training your brain. It's not making a good diagnostician, for example. It doesn't make you a good veterinarian. And this high level, taking a step back and understanding how things work, that actually really tied up the circle back to my engineering, right? I always wanted to understand why is this? How is this working? And honestly, you can't become a good veterinarian if you're unable to cram stuff in your brain. But you also need this bigger view of how does it actually works? And those are the best people that actually came out of my year that made fantastic veterinarians, right? That could basically bring both to the table. And we lost a lot of good people on the way that just couldn't, right? And maybe it's a good thing for all of the animals out there that need veterinarians, that some of the people who just cram things in their mind are actually not becoming veterinarians after all.

Jon - 00:14:01: Yeah, maybe the school figured it out. Like, no, no, we knew this all along. So it sounds like it wasn't like the clinic experience. And during the whole time, it was this intense of just like regurgitation of data. Or did you actually get a clinic-like experience during your time in vet school?

Martin - 00:14:17: I did after about two years after four semesters, it got a lot better, right? So you basically had all of the people who knew you would make it to the end, right? And then we got a lot of clinical experience, which was fantastic. One lecture that stuck in my mind was, again, tying to understanding how things work. It was actually a surgery lecture, and it ended up being an internal medicine lecture because the case we had looked like a surgical case, but ended up being an internal medicine case. And it's just, these are moments that are stuck in your brain saying, wait a second, you need to cast your net a lot wider to understand what's actually happening, right? Don't look at one thing too closely. Just take a really broad approach first and figure out if it's not things you're not considering, right? That was an eye-opening lecture. And of course, you know, meeting my professor for pharmacology four years in eighth semester, his name was Alfred Petter. He was already retired at the time. He just came back out of retirement to kind of teach a few classes in pharmacology. And he was one of these, you know, he experimented on himself. He took actually benzodiazepines to understand what patients would feel if they took those drugs, right? And this kind of lit the fire in me of making medicines, right? He was the one, he truly was the one who actually set me on that path. And ever since I studied with him, that was what I wanted to do. This is literally four years in. I already was kind of looking for becoming a companion animal surgeon. I had pretty decent hands as a surgeon. I was looking to become this. And then I had this really old guy speaking about the beginning. So how we made medicines. And it was just fascinating for me. And of course, you know, his argument was always, yes, as a veterinarian, you can help a lot of animals, right? And you can ultimately help people. But making medicines, you can help literally the entire world if you get it right. And so this was so fascinating for me to say, wow, you know, a medication like insulin changes lives of millions and millions and millions of people, right? And how great would this be to kind of be part of making something like this? This really changes the course. Not only for individuals that suffer from a disease, but can change the course of humanity. And so I think this is what kind of ultimately got me finally to the point of knowing this is what I want to do. It only took about, you know, 28 years or something.

Jon - 00:16:30: Yeah, no. And it's very interesting that I had a similar experience where I was like. Oh, this is a slog. And again, not a knock on being a doctor. It just didn't really work well with how I operate. And eventually, my friend Yuki Izuko, it was actually a toxicology lab. He's like, come on in. And thank you that you extended that opportunity because that was where it really all just started to click. Exactly what you were describing of scaled impact, where it's like an individual practitioner will have huge impact whenever they see patients, but it would just really, for me, just lit a fire when I was like, oh, this could be a multiplier effect. And I wanted to chip in as much as I can to that big multiplier effect. I can relive that feeling of like, wow, this is much, much bigger. And there's an opportunity set to have immense impact. And also just, it's a very fascinating discipline. So as you're wrapping up veterinary school, did you go right afterwards, straight into your PhD at Hanover?

Martin - 00:17:31:I basically worked for three days before I started my PhD. I think I worked for three. It was just kind of wrapping up stuff. And it was funny because there's two ways in Germany to do your PhD. One is you just do a full-blown university program, right? You go to university, do your practical stuff there and do your coursework there. The way I wanted to do it, because again, I wanted to make medicines. I wanted to do my practical work at a company and the biotech scene was just starting to develop. I mean, it was abysmal at the time, right? I mean, there were a hundred companies in Germany that did something R&D, right? That was it. And so at the same time, my very, very last exam, the 13th exam in that last group of exams was internal medicine. And I got a dog on the table and I diagnosed the dog with diabetes. It was a Labrador retriever, eight years old. Massive type 1 diabetes. And luckily, I diagnosed it right. So I managed to get through this exam. After this, I knew I wanted to be in pharmacology. So again, Activation Energy, I sent out, and this was before email, right? I sent out 100 and something applications, right? And I heard back maybe from five. And ultimately, out of the five, one was Eli Lilly. And so they offered me this massive opportunity. And this is how that all came to pass. But I never thought about Lilly apart from, you know, yeah, it's a big company. It was a US-based company, but there were some German pharmaceutical companies, some German biotechs that I thought first of. And then Lilly reached out to me and I thought, whoa, interesting. And of course, as luck will have it, the focus of R&D at Lilly Germany in Hamburg was... Diabetes. So again, these circles keep closing, right? So that was really interesting.

Jon - 00:19:17: Hold on. So vet school, you basically, right after you finished your exam, you basically immediately went into your PhD and then right after your PhD, right into the Lilly.

Martin - 00:19:27: Exactly. So I was lucky I could spend two years during my PhD at Lilly. I was literally based at Lilly. So I had a lab at Lilly. They offered me a lab. I needed to build a perifusion machine. So it's basically a reaction chamber where buffer is flowing through and there were systems available, but they were not good. And again, engineering background, I told my boys, I'll build you one that's much better, that has 12 channels, give me 20K. And you can imagine, I didn't have to apply for grants. He just said, okay. And it just went so much smoother doing this through Lilly. And again, the veterinary school of Hanover is a famous school specifically for pharmacology, right? And they had this agreement with Eli Lilly to say, hey, if you're doing the practical stuff, you're going to get a lot of money. And so I was able to get a lot of money. And so I did my coursework at Hanover, but did all of my practical work at Lilly, which allowed me then already to kind of get a glimpse into how projects work. How do you do drug discovery? Again, it was just a match made in heaven for me at that point. But since I was not internally really deeply in the faculty in Hanover defending my thesis, I got really scared, right? Because there's two big names in veterinary pharmacology in Germany. And one guy I had to defend my thesis in front of, right? And I had to defend my thesis in front of, right? And I was so, so scared. I was thinking weeks before, are my stats correct, right? I asked every statistician I knew, my hypothesis, did I set it up all right? And then as life will have it, he was not interested at all in these things. He asks me one single question, right? And he asks me, you're a pharmacologist. What is really important is that you know what the blood volume of an animal is. So what's the blood volume of a mouse? And that's such a general question. Usually you don't think about this, right? And of course, it's a little bit my history. I wanted to know what's behind it. So luckily, I knew it. That was the only question he asked. I answered, and he said, fine. That was literally his questioning. My supervisor who supervised my PhD there, he had a lot more questions, technical questions, of course. But this massive guy, this big pharmacologist, asked me one thing. And luckily, it was one of these things that ties through my career. Look under the hood, understand why, and if you actually connect the dots, if you know why and how humanity arrived to solve a certain problem, right, you're usually much, much better off than just cramming that knowledge in your brain. And so again, it saved me a couple of times that I just had this, take a step back, look at how things work. And again, it's this engineering approach to understand how things work, right? And so that was later one part when we got to recursion, why I was so interested in combining technologies with biology. I think this was always kind of on my mind. There must, you know, be a better approach than just empirical research.

Jon - 00:22:08: Very cool. I mean, that sounds like a cool program. And so at any point in time during your PhD, did you ever think about potentially going into academia? Or were you, once you got a taste of being two years at Lilly's, like, nope, academia is not on the horizon here.

Martin - 00:22:25: So my dad's an adventurer, right? So he worked in Germany, he worked in Poland, he worked in China. And so genes are very powerful. So I always wanted to venture outside and have adventures in my life. So I actually, for a hot second, looked at a postdoc position. At the time, Rohit Kulkarni started his lab in Harvard, and he wanted to build some expertise around pancreatic islets. And I've built literally the entire islet expertise at Lilly at the time. So for a hot second, I thought about it. But to be honest with you, Lilly was so great to me. And it really has become this almost like a family, I should say. And early on, I was taken up into their talent program. And if you're in the Lilly talent program or were at that time, you literally had every opportunity, right? And it was just at this point, it was so enticing. I was the youngest scientist to ever lead a 20-people group at Lilly, right? Two years into my job, I suddenly had 20 people reporting to me, right? And I got training that is usually only... Senior directors and VPs get. I just could ask, can I go there? And I could go there, right? And so I had mentors. I could really build my career. Not only did Lily give me the tools to make medicines, they also taught me how to use them. And I think this was something that very, very quickly got me away from my academic career. It was just like, wow, you have everything you want to do here. And there's a company that appreciates what you do. And so that's just a match made in heaven. So ultimately, together with the PhD, I stayed almost 10 years at Lilly. That was my longest stint in my career. And I'm eternally grateful to Lily for everything I could learn. Literally all of the scientific principles I'm still applying to this day have been drilled into me at Lilly.

Jon - 00:24:07: Wow. That is like singing praise. And I know Lilly is a very large institution. And, you know, from the outside looking in, I never worked at Lilly, so I don't know. But you'd imagine like coming in as a grad student, you could get lost in an organization that large. And I would imagine finding mentors or resources could also be equally as difficult. And would you say that this was a special thing about Lilly where they're giving young grad students a lot of opportunity and resources and training and mentorship? Is that like a Lilly specific thing?

Martin - 00:24:43: I think at the time, Lilly was kind of ahead of everybody else, right? You know, Pfizer, AstraZeneca all had these opportunities. Merck had these opportunities. Merck was really good in cross-training physicians, but it was really limited a lot to physicians, right? But companies did invest a lot in their people. Lilly was just standing out a little bit because they drove it to the next level. It was really kind of next level, right? And again, they offer you the tools, but you actually have to then do something, right? And this is how I ended up in biotech because I can't sit still, right? At one point, you feel like you're sitting still and it's not working for you anymore. So with Lilly, when I had the chance I saw a lot of really important Lilly scientists give presentations. Sometimes, you know, in a classic Midwestern way, friendly but tough so that you didn't really initially understand there was a real battle going on, right? And I looked just at the people who I felt like, wow, that was smart. That was done well. And I basically approached him and said, hey, I need a mentor. Can I bother you? And so I had multiple mentors. My first mentor was Mike Coghlan. He was a very senior chemist at Lilly. He was just smooth. He knew everything about drug discovery at Lilly because chemists are involved in a lot more projects than biologists are. So it was a wise choice. But Mike was just so elegant in making his point, even, you know, with people that were levels and levels above him and was just fascinating to see him operate. And he took me under his wing. And that's when my career really took off at Lilly. But I also could fill my gaps, right? You know, I have a very democratic leadership style. I had a colleague in sales. And, you know, I said, I need to learn about how to lead people that can become difficult, right? As scientists, we barely have any difficult people. We're all excited about what we do. We're grateful. We're doing something that's meaningful for humanity. But sometimes you need to have these skills. And my organizational skills at the beginning, let's just say, not my strong suit. So I got a mentor. He was Canadian and he was doing manufacturing, right? So you learn to get organized, right? It's not my strength, still not my strength, but I can hold my water with that. I can do what most people can't do in that space. But without those mentors and helping me understand what I need to work on wouldn't have been possible, right? And so that was also something Lilly was not kind of forcing a mentorship program on you. They basically just said, go out, find the person that fits you best and learn as much as you can from that person, period.

Jon - 00:27:07: That's amazing. And I see a common denominator here from finding the clinic to finding folks that could show you and allow you the opportunity to kind of like shadow and see how they do it. I mean, I think that's a superpower in its own right, like being able to make that connection and kind of learn on the fly. And you mentioned you came in and then you immediately or soon after started having a team of like 20 people. Can you talk a little bit about that kind of evolution in your professional development at Lilly? Like, what was your experience managing 20 people?

Martin - 00:27:38: So I think I just had a knack for it, I don't want to talk about managerial skills. I had to painfully learn them over the years. And I'm happy to share a story about one Lilly training that was life altering to me. But I think at this point, it was really just being different and being engaging and kind of letting people be themselves and letting them be the best they can be and not kind of limiting them, right? I hated being micromanaged. So I didn't want to do it to other people, right? I never assume I'm the smartest person in a room. I always believe that if a team of smart people comes to a decision, it's a better decision than when an individual comes to a decision, right? And I just applied some of those rules. One of the key things that I teach my mentees all the time is be sure what you're getting into. If you want to become a leader, it's a little bit like you're basically running a big orchestra, right? Your back is to the audience, right? Because the audience faces the orchestra, you face the orchestra. And if there's applause, the applause goes to the orchestra, not to you, right? So you're literally... You're literally just kind of making sure everything runs smoothly. And if you're not happy with this, don't become a leader because you're not going to like it, right? You're going to do it wrong and people will not follow you. So again, you have to take yourself back. If you need to mop up something in the lab, you're mopping up something in the lab, even if you're a VP, even if you're a CEO, it doesn't matter, right? If there's something you can do to help you do that, you're not too good to do stuff, right? And I think this is something a lot of people don't realize. And that played a big role in why I got that job. And again, very, very immature. In my managerial skills. And I learned that over the years, right? Communication is so critical. And I was granted training that was usually senior director and above. So I traveled to the UK. Everybody from Lili, from all over the world comes there for three days, right? We met the evening before the training. We didn't know anything and got just separated out into multiple groups, right? And then we got to know each other in the group. The next morning, they tell us what the program is about. And the program was, you are gonna... Basically design, conduct a theater play. You're gonna make a theater play, right? One group is gonna build the stage. Another group is gonna design the costumes. The other group is gonna do the music. And then each group of you are also on stage, have to write one act of the play. And then each one of you has to do either a monologue or has to sing. That was eight o'clock in the morning on a Wednesday. And the play was supposed to be recorded at eight in the evening. So we had 12 hours to figure all of that out. And I... I was in the group that was a real late starter. Well, you know, typical for me, right? Couldn't decide who's gonna lead and who's gonna do the work, right? And it was just very interesting. We won the contest ultimately, because once we kind of snapped into action, everything fell into place. We won it. But we had individual feedback on each of us from the trainer. It was very personal, where they really kind of ripped the bandaid off, right? And this was the day where basically my coach told me, he said, you don't have leadership potential. You're not gonna make it. So I was completely taken apart, right? And that was really forming for me because you have two choices. Either you roll up and, you know, get under a rock and never come out from it. Or you basically get yourself up, dust yourself off, figure out what you need to change. That's exactly what I did, right? And so I've proved him wrong and I'm not a petty person. I didn't follow up with him, but it is more about introspection. What do you need to change, right? What do you need? What do you need to change in communication? What do you need to change? And sometimes it's just also not listening to people that don't know you, right? And for new entrepreneurs, this is so important because you have started the company, you know how it is, right? You get a hundred nos and then it takes 101 to get one yes, right? And so it's important not to let this kind of drag you down, but it's these kind of defining moments in your life where you have to decide, you know, get back up, get back in the ring or roll over and be dead. And so this again applies to you. And I realize to this day in my job, you know, you sometimes have just negative news in the company and you have to deal with it. Right. And you can't walk away. I'm sorry. There's too much at stake. You just can't. And you need to learn to take these punches. You need to learn to get back up. And this was kind of the first time in my career where I really, from the rising star was completely taken apart and it was necessary because in hindsight, I was a cocky little, you know, bastard. Yeah. Yeah.

Intro/Outro - 00:32:02: That's all for this episode of the Biotech Startups podcast. We hope you enjoyed our discussion with Martin Brenner. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe, leave us a review and share it with your friends. Thanks for listening. And we look forward to having you join us again for part two of our conversation with Martin. The Biotech Startups Podcast is produced by Excedr. Don't want to miss an episode? Search for the Biotech Startups Podcast wherever you get your podcasts and click subscribe. Excedr provides research labs with equipment leases on founder-friendly terms to support paths to exceptional outcomes. To learn more, visit our website, On behalf of the team here at Excedrin, thanks for listening. The Biotech Startups podcast provides general insights into the life science sector through the experiences of its guests. The use of information on this podcast or materials linked from the podcast is at the user's own risk. The views expressed by the participants are their own and are not the views of Excedrin or sponsors. No reference to any product, service or company in the podcast is an endorsement by Excedr or its guests.