Dr. Scott Rocklage – Managing Partner at 5AM Ventures


Don’t be afraid of measured risk-taking.

Scott M. Rocklage, PhD joined 5AM Ventures in 2003 as a Venture Partner and became a Managing Partner in 2004. Dr. Rocklage has over three decades of healthcare management experience with strategic leadership responsibilities that led to FDA approval of three U.S. New Drug Applications (Omniscan™, Teslascan® and Cubicin®), and he has entered multiple drug candidates into clinical trials. Dr. Rocklage has served as Chairman and CEO of Cubist Pharmaceuticals, President and CEO of Nycomed Salutar, and has also held various R&D positions at Salutar and Catalytica. Dr. Rocklage formerly served as Board Chairman of Relypsa (NASDAQ: RLYP) and and Novira (acquired by Johnson & Johnson). He currently serves as Board Chairman of Rennovia, Kinestral, and Cidara (NASDAQ: CDTX) as well as on the Boards of Epirus (NASDAQ: EPRS) and Pulmatrix (NASDAQ: PULM). Dr. Rocklage was formerly Executive Chairman of Ilypsa (acquired by Amgen), Miikana (acquired by EntreMed), Semprus (acquired by Teleflex). Dr. Rocklage received his B.S. in Chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley and his PhD in Chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where he conducted research in the laboratory of Richard R. Schrock (Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2005). He is an inventor or co-inventor on over 30 U.S. patents and greater than 100 peer-reviewed publications. Dr. Rocklage is based in the Boston, MA office.

Where did the idea for (your business) come from?

My business is a life science-based venture capital firm. It is called 5AM Ventures because we are in the company formation business which is considered early stage and 5AM is certainly early!

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I do not have a typical day. Some days are studying new areas of life science and some days are working with portfolio company’s management team while others my be preparing and attending Board meetings.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I work with entrepreneurs – either scientists, physicians or business-executives to assist them in shaping their ideas into potential medicines to treat unmet medical needs.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

The explosive growth in being able to target specific mutations or genotypes to treat cancer in unique ways. This has already led to extending and saving lives and we will only develop improvements in the neat future which is exciting.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I am very well organized with regards to time management, calendaring and prioritization.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

Focus even more on people, i.e., team selection from the very beginning of the new company.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Don’t be afraid of measured risk-taking. You do best when you control your own future through entrepreneurship not when you choose to work for established Fortune 500 companies

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

Staying true to what our business knows how to do well and not straying too far from our strengths. This is particularly important in challenging times when it might appear to be “easy” to try something that fits with the times.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Most of my ‘failures” have come in the people, i.e., management area. If you’ve hired the wrong person, move on relatively quickly and don’t think that performance reviews and goals will change the fundamental nature of a person’s performance characteristics.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Not relevant to non-scientists

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

Software and services don’t really have an impact on life science venture investing

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I still think the classic “Good to Great” remains a timeless tome for understanding business and performance

Key Learnings

  • Don’t be afraid of measured risk-taking.
  • If you’ve hired the wrong person, move on relatively quickly and don’t think that performance reviews and goals will change the fundamental nature of a person’s performance characteristics.