Alumni Spotlight: Daniel White, Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer, Clearside Biomedical
Daniel White has always been fascinated with biology. He wanted to pursue a career in biology, but heard over and over that he could not be successful unless he became a physician. After completing a molecular biology and genetics course at Auburn University, he absolutely fell in love—and received a perfect score in the class. He continued to take additional courses in this field and pursued an opportunity to work on a project to sequence mitochondrial DNA. Once he was in the lab, he was hooked on becoming a scientist and making a difference through biology.
White was one of the first people to receive a Bachelor of Molecular Biology degree from Auburn. He became a technician in a molecular pharmacology lab at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “I was able to hone my skills in the lab since the team was tasked with identifying, cloning, and studying an integrin inhibitor complex referred to as 2b3a which is a binding site for platelets and thrombin in order to studying clotting,” explains White. This was his first step into molecular pharmacology.
After working at a California Biotech company, he struggled with the challenge of the value of molecular biology versus the financial value of this field. He decided to enter a Master of Business Administration program at Wake Forest University with a focus in corporate finance. He targeted his career in business development and travelled the word to find new inventions leading to biological technological breakthroughs.
White founded his first company, Alimera Sciences, and shares, “An entrepreneur’s role ranges from making coffee to creating a vision. In any one day an entrepreneur is expected to be proficient at corporate strategy and finance, intellectual property, fund raising, building a culture, shareholder and board management, talent acquisition, accounting, manufacturing, clinical and non-clinical development, and commercial. It is a choreography in time management. When good news comes you have to celebrate and when bad news comes you have to see it as an opportunity and smile through it. There are no sick days and you have to be engaged 24 hours a day with the advent of networking and social media.”
In 2011, White founded Clearside Biomedical from a research project with Emory University and Georgia Tech that spanned more than five years. “The project used microneedles to reach a previously poorly research location in the eye called the suprachoroidal space,” White says. “The suprachoroidal space is a virtual space adjacent between the white part of your eye, the sclera, and the blood retinal barrier, called the choroid and outer retina.”
Clearside Biomedical has developed a suprachoroidal delivery of the steroid, Triamcinolone acetonide, which shows promise in the treatment of Uveitis, Retinal Vein Occlusion and Diabetic Eye complications. White shares, “Clearside Biomedical expects to file our first New Drug Application with the FDA in the coming months. In our Uveitis program we have seen outcomes where two percent of patients entering the trial can see 20/40 or better and by the end of the six-month study, 54 percent could see 20/40 or better—the potential for a driver’s license. Clearside now is a publicly traded company (CLSD) and holds intellectual property providing exclusive access to this space to deliver medications that may lead to treatments of diseases leading to blindness.”
When asked about career advice he would give to current students, White explains, “If you are currently a student or graduate student, I think it is highly likely you don’t know where your career will take you. Be patient and enjoy the journey and enjoy learning.” He also shares advice that he personally wrote to his own high school senior recently while in Paris for a few days, “Take the time to gain your education and experience. Work with a large company and make friends and build a network. Learn about team work and communication. Let accomplishment define who you are. And just like the paintings hanging in the Louvre, be an expert and a master of what occupation you eventually have and always have a big vision.”
To learn more about Clearside Biomedical and Daniel White, visit the company’s website.