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DINESH PATEL MS’75, PhD, is considered by many to be the pioneer of biotechnology and pharmaceutical
endeavors in the Mountain West region. But long before the self-made entrepreneur
became known across the country for his business ventures, Dr. Patel made the life-changing
decision to move with his wife, Kalpana, to the United States so that he could pursue
his master’s degree in pharmaceutics at Philadelphia College of Pharmacy.
“I knew early on in my college career that I would someday run my own company,” said Dr. Patel, a native of Zambia, Africa. “I was aware that in order to accomplish my goals, I needed to gain a strong educational background, and PCP had a great reputation in the pharmaceutical industry.”
Despite his solid background in pharmacy, Dr. Patel—who first earned his bachelor’s degree in pharmacy from Gujarat University in India—said he was never interested in practicing pharmacy. That’s because he was more fascinated with the science and business aspects of the pharmaceutical industry, and after PCP he completed his PhD in pharmaceutical chemistry at the University of Michigan.
Dr. Patel followed a traditional career path—conducting research and working for large corporations for several years. However, his life as he knew it changed drastically in 1985 after he teamed up with his former Michigan professor to launch his first business, TheraTech, Inc., in Salt Lake City. This company specialized in developing controlled, time-release medicines like transdermal patches and oral systems for delivering medications.
“I did not want to spend the rest of my professional life trying to climb the corporate ladder,” said Dr. Patel, who offered this universal advice to all students: “I encourage students and young professionals of all backgrounds and descents to seek employment opportunities at startup companies where they can be more exposed to the decision-making process that goes into operating a prosperous business.”
Some of his most noteworthy accomplishments include taking TheraTech, Inc., public
in 1992. At that time, Dr. Patel became one of the few Indian CEOs of a publicly traded
U.S. company. TheraTech was acquired by Watson Pharmaceuticals in 1999, and Dr. Patel
shifted his entrepreneurial efforts toward becoming a venture capitalist and philanthropist.
Over the past 30 years, he has secured 15 patents worldwide, as well as founded and invested in more than 20 biotechnology and information technology companies. He is also the cofounder of vSpring Capital, a Salt Lake City-based investment firm now known as Signal Peak Ventures. He is currently the founder emeritus of this company, which manages more than $500 million in capital investments.
At 65 years old, Dr. Patel now spends much of his time and fortune giving back to underserved communities in India through the Shakti Krupa Charitable Trust started by his father. In 1994, he and his brothers established the Shree Chhotubhai A. Patel Hospital & Community Health Centre in Mota Fofalia, India, in memory of their late father—a 100-bed charity hospital now serving 65,000 people in local villages surrounding their father’s birthplace.
“My father always told us that service to mankind was of utmost importance because he moved to Africa with nothing and established himself through his service to the community,” said Dr. Patel, who also runs a foundation with his wife that donates to various social and cultural activities in the United States and abroad.