Silicon Valley's Hottest Hand
By Michael V. Copeland

(Business 2.0) – IPOs were rarities in 2002 and 2003—and biotech IPOs were the rarest of all. Then, last year, Alta Partners teed up 10 of them, including three led by 39-year-old managing director Dan Janney.

Though many biotech investors start as scientists, Janney, a history major at Georgetown, says ignorance gives him an edge. "Other VCs fund companies because they worked on those projects as postdocs," he says. "Less love for the technology gives you clearer vision."

Janney's approach? Find therapies that can reach clinical trials in only one round of funding, then call in Big Pharma. That's what he did at Corgentech, which implants DNA-like molecules in diseased tissue. Janney's $2.5 million investment in 2001 led to a phase 2 trial in Germany, the success of which lured Bristol-Myers Squibb into a 2003 deal worth more than $250 million. Janney put a total of $12 million into the now-public company; Corgentech's current market cap of $300 million means his investment is now worth a cool $45 million. — MICHAEL V. COPELAND