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Grad Shapes Biotech Field

  Blake Rasmussen ’05  

Ralph “Chris” Christoffersen ’59 retired only briefly before jumping back in with $850 million in the venture capital game and the ability to help reshape the biotechnology field.

“The biotechnology field has potential to produce new therapies that meet extreme medical needs,” says Christoffersen. “It also has the potential to be a driving economic force in the United States.”

Christoffersen now manages that effort in the Boulder, Colo., office of Morgenthaler Ventures, where he’ll search for biotech investments all over the nation. He took the job almost immediately after retiring as CEO of Ribozyme Pharmaceuticals Inc., where he worked for a decade. Ribozyme primarily developed cancer and hepatitis treatments based on the research of Nobel Prize winner Tom Cech.

Christoffersen previously served as executive director, and later vice president, of The Upjohn Co., as well as senior vice president of research at SmithKline Beecham.

After retiring from careers as president of Colorado State University and CEO of a pharmaceutical company, Chris Christofferson '59 is back at work.

After earning a PhD in physical chemistry from Indiana University, Christoffersen remained in academia for 20 years as a chemistry professor at the University of Kansas and later as vice chancellor for academic affairs. In 1981, he began to bridge the gap between academics and the private sector by accepting the president’s position at Colorado State University.

Christoffersen says Cornell was the starting point for his career in the sciences.

“I was especially influenced by chemistry professor Bill Deskin. He introduced me to research,” says Christoffersen. “I would sleep in his attic over the holidays so we could do research in the lab.”

Christoffersen has two children, Kirk Alan and Rachel Anne, and has been married to his wife, Barbara, for over 40 years.

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