As CEO of Solid, Ilan Ganot Searches for Cure to Son’s Disease
In 2012, when Ilan Ganot learned his son Eytani, who was two at the time, had Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a degenerative muscular disease, he did what any parent would do: he grieved, he got angry. But then, he took action.
Two weeks after his son’s diagnosis, Ganot, who was working in Equities at J.P. Morgan’s office in London at the time, marched into the office of Andrea Ponti, then co-head of Healthcare Investment Banking and now the executive partner and founder of Global Healthcare Opportunities Global.
"I told him, ‘I’m going to figure this out. Can you help me?’" Ganot says. Ponti said his first step should be to attend the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco, the largest healthcare investment symposium in the industry, which was taking place a few months later in January 2013. Ganot went armed with the support of top scientists studying Duchenne and a few basic slides outlining his idea for a company that would work to find a cure for the disease. "It was all still very raw at this point," says Ganot.
After Jamie Dimon’s keynote lunch address, Ganot walked up to the JPMorgan Chase Chairman and CEO, introduced himself and told him his story. "I said I believed with the right effort and capital, I could find a way to change the course of this disease. Jamie said ‘this sounds very interesting, and we’ll do what we can to help.’"
Fast forward to 2017: Ganot’s Solid Biosciences company has raised more than $100 million towards finding a cure for the disease. Duchenne affects around 300,000 children worldwide, and mostly boys. Patients with the disease typically lose the ability to walk by the time they’re in their teens and live only until their thirties.
$5 Million from J.P. Morgan
Following conversations with then Corporate & Investment Bank heads Daniel Pinto and Mike Cavanagh, the firm led Solid’s first significant round of financing, making a balance sheet investment of $5 million, as part of a total $17.1 million investment that Ganot used to launch Solid.
"I feel very fortunate that we found out about Eytani’s illness when I was working at J.P. Morgan," Ganot says. "The firm has my loyalty forever. Employees should be proud to work in a place where something like this can happen."
Ganot says it was hard to leave J.P. Morgan and challenging to make a career change, but his heart was in finding a cure for his son. He moved his family across the Atlantic from London to Boston, Massachusetts, the heart of biotech, where he established the company. Eytani is now six years old and has two sisters, eight-year-old Eliya and three-year-old Alexy Lulu.
Most recently, Ganot raised $50 million in a third round funding from investors including biotechnology giant Biogen. The money will help move a possible gene therapy for Duchenne into clinical testing.
"There’s great potential to make a huge difference," Ganot says, noting he expects the gene therapy to go to trial this year. The therapy inserts a modified, yet functional gene into patients’ cells to modify the disease. Solid is also developing other types of therapies for the disease, including a special suit patients can use to help compensate for muscle weakness designed with military technology.
Ganot joined J.P. Morgan in 2011. He had been working in banking in New York and moved to London for the J.P. Morgan role, a cross-functional and cross-product role on the equities trading floor that required him to work on relationship-building with hedge fund clients. "It was a great opportunity and I had a good network for the role," he says.
Previously, Ganot worked at Lehman Brothers where he met his wife Annie, and at Nomura. Born in Israel, Ganot served as a captain in the Israel Defense Forces, studied law and business, and then practiced law in Israel with a focus on private equity and mergers and acquisitions. He moved to London where he received his MBA from London Business School. He has also lived and worked in Hong Kong.
"My time at J.P. Morgan was so great," Ganot says. "The people were great, and it’s a very friendly, open and professional culture."
Past, Present and Future with J.P. Morgan
Ganot continues to get valuable guidance from the firm, and counts current employees and alumni among his close friends. Healthcare investment banking vice chairman Robbie Huffines sits on the Solid Board of Directors and is one of Ganot’s closest friends. Solid’s last board meeting was held at the firm’s offices in New York. "I ran into a lot of old friends," Ganot says.
At J.P. Morgan, Ganot saw great leadership in action, confident decision-making and effective team building, all lessons he carried with him to Solid, he says. His time at J.P. Morgan helped him create his own company with integrity, he says, one that’s well respected in the industry for employees’ professionalism and hard work. He advises employees starting out to work hard, learn as much as possible and build relationships.
Ganot now speaks at J.P. Morgan’s annual Healthcare Conference, and has caught up with Dimon at the event the last few years.
"He remains to me one of the people who made this journey possible, and maybe as result, we will cure this disease," says Ganot. "I couldn’t have done this without J.P. Morgan."
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