The Admissions Office probably did not spend much time debating David M. Darst ’05. This first-year, Wigglesworth K resident seems like the kind of whiz kid some think go here.
David is the co-founder and executive vice president of Potentia Pharmaceuticals, Inc. But that title is no résumé filler. It is a bona-fide award-winning company and David is running the show.
What does Potentia do? According to David, most pharmaceutical companies spend about 12 years and $500-$800 million to put one drug on the market. Potentia combines nanotechnology and machine learning to “help companies develop knowledge behind certain proteins,” David said. The company’s “high-throughput atomic force microscopy” method facilitates curing diseases by screening small molecules against protein disease targets. This technology makes the process up to 1,000 times faster and helps companies save around $100 million on each drug.
David’s accomplishment is the result of an 18-month ongoing project. After creating alkaproject.com, a disease research portal, while in high school, this Greenwich, Conn. native deferred admission to Harvard for a year. In the summer of 2000, he worked at Akamai Technologies in Cambridge, and soon afterwards accepted a full time position as product manager at Akamai.
On the side, he was developing the idea to expedite the process of putting drugs on the market. Eventually, David gave up his position at Akamai in order to devote all his energy to his innovative plan. “I was working 24 hours a day on this, working with lawyers, writing the patents, making trips to New York and the West Coast,” David said. The idea, which he designed with Alec Machiels, a Harvard Business School student, won the 2001 Harvard Business School Business Plan contest, allowing the start-up of the company. Today, Potentia focuses on appealing to venture capitalists while David spends around 45 hours a week working on hiring, strategy, funding and business opportunities as a whole.
It’s not all work and no play, however. David is on Harvard’s varsity sailing team, participates in the Mission Hill tutoring program, and is comping the Lampoon. On the academic side, he hopes to combine government and economics concentrations and graduate with honors in 2004 by using his advanced standing status.
And coming to Harvard from such financial exploits hasn’t been all bad. “It was definitely a transition to a bureaucratic academic society. A totally different way to run your life and such than in business,” he said. He adds that, “I’ve met quite a few impressive people, which is great.” His classmates return his praise. “He’s very enthusiastic,” said sailor Daphne W. Lyman ’05. “He’s a great guy, incredibly hospitable and generous with his time,” said Nicholas H. Ma ‘05, a friend of David’s.
Rounding it all out is a minor criticism. A sophomore sailing teammate remarked that he is growing up too fast. “There’s a time for everything. I wouldn’t have picked this time to do what he did, but at the same time, it’s respectable,” the acquaintance said. Probably not the last word on this eligible bachelor.