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The Rise of Backyard Biotech

If FerroKin BioSciences has a headquarters, it’s the attic of the farmhouse-style home of Dr. Hugh Young Rienhoff Jr., in San Carlos, California. Clearing papers off chairs, Rienhoff seems an unlikely pharma CEO. “Sorry,” he says, “I work in piles.” The attic is decorated with maps, medical-science posters, vacation pictures, and mementos of his three children. He gestures to a computer desk, where monitors sit atop stacks of thick binders that lift them to eye level. “Those are my FDA filings,” says Rienhoff with a grin. “That’s one of the best uses I’ve found for them.”

FerroKin is seven employees who work from home, and a collection of about 60 vendors and contractors who supply all the disparate pieces of the drug-development process. Rienhoff, a physician and former venture capitalist, founded it in 2007 as a start-up, a virtual biotech company. Since then, his team has picked up talent and resources as needed, raising $27 million and seeing a drug from development into Phase 2 clinical trials.

“Some people have said, ‘How can you really accomplish this? You should have a lab, how can you not have a lab?’” says Laura Eichorn, Rienhoff’s first hire, who does the finance, HR, PR, IT— “everything but the science”—from her midwestern home.

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