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Immigrant Entrepreneur Hall of Fame: Ivor Royston

Biogen Logo
Country of origin: England

Year came to U.S.: 1954

Education: MD, Johns Hopkins University; Clinical Oncology fellowship, Stanford University

Business: Hybritech (1978), Biogen (1986), Forward Ventures (1993)

Headquarters: Weston, MA (Biogen)

2015 revenue: $10.8 billion (Biogen)

Worldwide employment: >7,500 (Biogen)

Ranked 263 in the 2016 Fortune 500


  • Royston is a doctor with business savvy and even won a Tony award.
  • He bridged the divide between academia and real-life patient care resulting in the multi-billion-dollar company Biogen.


Photo of Ivor RoystonAt age 14, Ivor Royston declared that he would devote his life to curing cancer. In the process, he became an oncologist, researcher, professor, scientist, entrepreneur, venture capitalist and even a Tony-award winner. He is credited with helping to change the nature of biotechnology worldwide.

Emigrating from England at the age of nine, Royston realized early on that his dream needed more than merely good schooling to materialize. So, he honed his business skills in “The Chessmen,” an investment club of 16 boys he helped create in Washington, D.C. Taking those skills to the consumer, he bought and operated an ice cream truck to earn college tuition money.

It was as an assistant professor at the University of California-San Diego (UCSD) that Royston sought to mend the fundamental disconnect between research and clinical application. He wanted new, life-saving medicines to go from the lab to the hospital quickly and profitably. In 1978, he co-founded Hybritech, San Diego’s first biotechnology company.

This historic marriage of scholarship and entrepreneurship triggered a paradigm shift in San Diego’s medical research community. It became a leading international biotech cluster. Today, more than 50 San Diego companies trace their lineage to Hybritech.

It also catapulted Royston’s legendary career. In 1985, he co-founded IDEC Pharmaceuticals and in 2003 IDEC merged with Biogen, founded by Swiss immigrant Charles Weissman. The new company, Biogen, is now the world’s oldest independent biotechnology company. It continues to focus on its mission of discovering, developing and delivering innovative therapies to patients worldwide.

He went on to earn tenure at UCSD and co-found Forward Ventures to fund companies developing breakthrough medical treatments. Forward Ventures has invested in more than 50 companies and has more than $500 million under management.

Royston also built a reputation for philanthropy supporting organizations from cancer centers to opera houses and, in 2006, Royston won a Tony award for best musical as a producer of Jersey Boys.

Updated July 2015

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