Todd Wallach

“In high technology start-ups, revenues are projected to begin in one to two years, but in pharmaceutical start-ups, revenues start seven to eight years out, so the question is how to fund operations. I deal with that issue every day.”


Todd Wallach, MBA, MB, EMTM’00
Chief Executive Officer Molecular Detection, Inc.
Lawrenceville, NJ

Todd Wallach, MBA, MB, EMTM’00

Building a Biotech

After earning an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering, Todd Wallach spent most of his early career as a systems engineer. With a strong interest in business, he earned his MBA and joined Booz-Allen Hamilton as a management consultant. But he still looked to tap his full range of technical and business skills to build and grow a pharmaceutical company.

Penn's reputation, the program's scientific breadth, and the opportunity for academic immersion attracted Todd. "I wanted to explore as many different industries as I could," he recalls, noting that a biotechnology elective taught by Professor Dan Hammer that he took his first semester in 1998 completely changed the direction of his career.

"EMTM allowed me to explore an area of interest, and run as far as I could with it. It gave me the chance to really learn a lot, and to put the pieces together to achieve the potential that I knew I had. Here I am today at a pharmaceutical start-up, building the business from molecule to medicine. Things have come full circle."

After completing the EMTM program in 2000 and a second MSE in biotechnology from Penn, he joined biotech start-up Acuity Pharmaceuticals as a member of the founding management team. Acuity is applying emerging RNA interference technologies developed at Penn for treatment of age-related macular degeneration and other ophthalmic diseases. He also serves as a member of the institutional review board (IRB) for clinical trials at Penn.

"Understanding the lessons in best practices across industries, and knowing how more dynamic industries move helps you understand and get ahead of the curve in slower moving industries. I never had that exposure before," he says.

"In high technology start-ups, revenues are projected to begin in one to two years, but in pharmaceutical start-ups, revenues start seven to eight years out, so the question is how to fund operations. I deal with that issue every day."

Though EMTM didn't directly lead Todd to Acuity Pharmaceuticals, it reinforced his dream to build a company that would help people, and helped him attain the requisite leadership and technology management skills.