Biotech entrepreneur to speak at distinguished alumni event

UO graduate alumnus Mao Fei

UO graduate alumnus Fei Mao, who went on to become a leading biotech entrepreneur, will return to campus April 12 for the third instalment of the Distinguished Alumni Speakers Program on April 12.

The talk will be at 3 p.m. in the Ford Alumni Center’s Giustina Ballroom. It is free and open to the public.

Mao received his doctorate in chemistry from the UO in 1990, working in the lab of chemistry professor David Tyler, and has since established a successful career as a researcher, inventor and entrepreneur in the biotech industry.

“Fei is a problem solver and an intellectual adventurer,” Tyler said. “He likes to tinker with ideas — the more unorthodox the better — and he especially likes difficult problems where new ways of thinking about problems are required.”

From the beginning of his studies, Tyler says Fei’s entrepreneurial goals were clear; he wanted to work for a company to gain professional contacts and knowledge, and he wanted to start his own company so that he could have maximum creative freedom. Tyler says that having these clear career goals from the outset of his studies contributed greatly to Fei’s future success.

“Students need to hear the importance of having a career plan so they can tailor their education to their goals,” Tyler said. “One of the keys to Fei’s success was that he had a detailed career plan in graduate school.”

After school, Fei’s first job was with Molecular Probes, a biotech startup based in Eugene. Fei was a key inventor of several of the most important fluorescent dye systems and technologies that were developed and commercialized by Molecular Probes.

He later worked with Adam Heller, an academic scientist and biotech entrepreneur whose company, Therasense, was developing real-time continuous blood glucose monitors. Fei was one of the key inventors of the technology, along with Heller, and both hold several important patents on the technology today.

After his work with Hellar and Therasense, Fei founded Biotium, which grew to become a leading supplier of innovative molecular tools for life science research, medical diagnostics and drug screening. Tyler said starting Biotium was the achievement of a dream for Fei.

“The successful development of Biotium, and its continued significant growth and success achieved and demonstrated one of Fei’s dreams: to own his own company and to be one of the leaders in the field of pure and applied fluorescent biomedical science and technology,” Tyler said.