Published: Oct. 31, 2023


Dr. William S. Marshall, a scientific mind proven through his undergraduate degree in Biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his Ph.D. in Chemistry/Biochemistry at the University of Colorado Boulder, quickly scaled the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry corporate ladders holding increasingly advanced positions (see timeline for his complete trajectory).

Bill Marshall Portrait

Current State of Affairs

Currently, Dr. Marshall is an in-demand biotech and pharmaceutical industry consultant following several successful industry positions, most notably as CEO of a publicly traded company – miRagen – where he served as CEO, Co-Founder and Director for over a dozen years. He also serves on the Boards of several privately held biotechnology and technology companies. In addition, he co-owns Boulder-based Twisted Pine Brewing Company since 2003 – alongside a former Amgen colleague, Bob Baile, who purchased Twisted Pine in 1996. Interesting fact - Twisted Pine was founded in 1995 by legendary brewer Gordon Knight, who opened three breweries in Colorado. Tragically, Knight died in a helicopter crash serving as a firefighter and Baile merged his existing brewery (Peak to Peak Brewing) with Twisted Pine only a year after its founding.

Back in the CU Days

Dr. Marshall earned his Ph.D. in chemistry/biochemistry from the University of Colorado under Distinguished Professor Marvin Caruthers. He credits Dr. Caruthers for leading a lab where graduate students could operate with freedom and the encouragement to be self-starters – becoming thinkers who were able to find their unique way to new scientific approaches and discoveries. Dr. Caruthers, while an entrepreneur in his own right, did not deviate from providing a rich academic atmosphere and it wasn’t until Dr. Marshall inquired about an industry path that Caruthers enthusiastically opened up about those opportunities. Dr. Marshall believes that an advisor’s style of instruction and lab management is key to either creating critical thinkers, by allowing a sink or swim environment with regular consultation; or really good laboratory technicians if an advisor micromanages most aspects of their work. He urges graduate students to consider what they really are passionate about and to look for the qualities that will allow for maximal intellectual growth and preparation for independent thinking when selecting an advisor with whom to work.

Dr. Marshall, like many other Caruthers lab alumni, felt the social interactions fostered in Dr. Caruthers’ lab created the environment where you could have fun and do great science – recalling important collaborations between labs such as Cech lab, Uhlenbeck lab and of course, other Caruthers lab members. This was in addition to a wide variety of internationally recognized experts in complementary fields from all over the world. He described the Caruthers lab Christmas party white elephant gift exchanges that were as much roasting opportunities as they were gift-giving, with very fond memories. And he noted the international connections afforded by the make-up of the lab members in the Caruthers lab, and through the collaborations between the various advisors in the department, allowed for the creation of long-term friendships and opportunities for collaboration after graduation.

Biotech Industry Comes Calling

Dr. Marshall always appreciated the interface of chemistry and biology and when considering an academic career vs. industry, felt that a biotech/pharma career would allow him to make the biggest impact on human health – providing the ability to focus on rewarding work that leads to significant impacts on mankind.

“A few principals I have learned along the way… 1) Doing great science within your company allows for robust scientific business endeavors. 2) Blinding samples within all your studies from the person conducting the experiment allows for a much more robust outcome and solves for confirmation bias. 3) Hiring a talented team is what builds a successful company – a company will not survive or thrive if built around a single person. Highly functional teams of smart people will always make better decisions that one individual 4) Practicing a combination of situational and servant leadership and providing the right training to each of your employees builds a stronger culture and company.”

A comprehensive timeline illustrates Dr. Marshall's quick ascendance into leadership roles in a number of biotech companies. His experience at Amgen allowed him to participate in a wide variety of therapeutic development approaches throughout the drug discovery process and led to the development of several clinical candidates. Within the Thermo Fisher Biosciences division, Dr. Marshall was responsible for leading technology assessment and strategic planning. This unit had revenues of approximately $1 billion and manufactured and supplied a wide range of products and services across the general chemistry and life sciences arenas.

Dr. Marshall Career Timeline

What the Future Holds

Dr. Marshall will continue with his biotech/pharma consulting, focusing on serving as an advisor to cool and promising start-ups; providing expert consulting on intellectual property matters; serving as an interim executive team member at start-ups where his expertise is spot-on; and serving on various boards of directors where his experience fits. He certainly wouldn’t rule out potentially taking on another CEO role to advance a powerful new technology if the right opportunity was presented.

Dr. Marshall also wants to support his daughters, both in college, in their careers and general life pursuits, one of whom just defended her master’s thesis in Forestry and the other an undergraduate senior majoring in Biochemistry. Both of whom decided to pursue their undergraduate academic careers at the University of Wisconsin – Madison.

Dr. Marshall's Advice for Ph.D. Candidates

Regardless of whether you choose to pursue an academic career or wind up enticed to jump into biotechnology or pharma industries, align your skill sets with what is being funded and what is trending in the scientific community and always be prepared for and embrace the unknown. He references online publications like Biospace, Endpoints, and Fierce Biotech as great resources for all seeking new positions. On the industry side of things, Dr. Marshall offers that the biotech industry has always existed in a sign wave based on financing opportunities and the general state of the pharmaceutical field. It has gone through downturns [naming 2000 and 2007-2008 as well as the current environment nationally in the biotech segment]  which inevitably are followed by hot streaks. Hold on tight and be ready for what tomorrow brings. Don’t be afraid to ask yourself – “do I love what I am currently doing?” and if not, search for areas where you are good and know areas where you are not and make a change. Take a bigger picture vision of your landscape and even think about ancillary opportunities such as patent law, analyst work, investment banking, and even becoming a medical doctor or practitioner. Finally, in research you must always be ready for failure and be accepting of failure, as that is what makes you build your skillsets and depth. It also builds character that allows one to deal with the ever-changing landscape of life.

"The amount of time you spend in research and virtually any other endeavor doesn’t necessarily correlate to the eventual rewards, careful selection of the right path at the right time is absolutely necessary."

William S Marshall Biography