The Future of Neuroscience Drug R&D: Ryan Watts on The Long Run

Today’s guest on The Long Run is Ryan Watts.

Ryan is the co-founder and CEO of South San Francisco-based Denali Therapeutics.

Ryan Watts, co-founder and CEO, Denali Therapeutics

Denali is one of the prominent development-stage biotech companies working on treatments for neurodegenerative diseases. It has a pipeline with seven drug candidates in clinical development. It’s developing small molecules and large molecules against a range of neurodegenerative diseases that includes rare diseases such as Hunter Syndrome and ALS, as well as more common maladies such Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s.

Ryan is a scientist by training. He did his PhD at Stanford University and spent the first part of his career running labs at Genentech. He joined with former Genentech colleagues Alex Schuth and Marc Tessier-Lavigne to co-found Denali in 2015. The company secured a Series A financing of $217 million – which was big then, and is still big now. The company doesn’t yet have any products on the market, but it has amassed $1.34 billion in cash as of the end of 2022, and has established a broad base of support for its R&D through partnerships with Sanofi, Biogen, and Takeda Pharmaceuticals.

This is a wide-ranging conversation that includes Ryan’s path into biotech and neuroscience, some of the classic challenges of the field, and reasons why he’s optimistic that significant progress is coming to neuroscience R&D.

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Now, please join me and Ryan Watts on The Long Run.


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