From early childhood, Janet Denlinger had an interest in science. When she was in 10th grade, her biology teacher suggested she participate in a science camp at Florida State University. The experience started Denlinger on a career path that led to her co-founding a highly successful biotechnology company. "The camp exposed us to many areas of science and gave us the opportunity to meet the people behind the science and hear why they did what they did and how they got there," she says. "I then chose to attend UF because I wanted to study science, and it was then and is still the best and most progressive in that area."
Denlinger started at UF in 1962, majoring in biology. During her junior year, she received a research fellowship from the Retina Foundation in Boston, where she studied biochemistry. After graduating from UF in 1966 and earning her master's degree in 1967 from Purdue University, she returned to Boston for a year and then held a variety of science-related positions during the next 13 years, working in the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Ottawa (Canada), teaching high school science classes in Florida and beginning her PhD while working at Columbia University's medical school. "In 1981, my work took me to France, where I joined the research team of the Connective Tissue Laboratory of the University of Paris. The next year I successfully completed my PhD in biochemistry at the Universit» de Sciences et Techniques in Lille, France."
That same year, Denlinger and her husband, Endre A. Balazs, co-founded Biomatrix, Inc., a biomedical research and development company based in Ridgefield, New Jersey. The company eventually grew to 400 employees in 11 countries. "Fourteen years of research and development work and clinical trials resulted in five pioneering medical therapeutic products used worldwide. These products were all based on hyaluronan, the molecule I investigated in my doctoral thesis and that has been the main subject of Endre's research for the past 60 years," says Denlinger. Biomatrix was one of the few biotechnology companies that had three consecutive years of profitability, allowing it to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1998. The next year, product sales of more than $70 million made Biomatrix one of the fastest-growing biotechnology companies in the US.
In 2000, Biomatrix was sold to Genzyme Corporation, and a new company, Genzyme Biosurgery, was created. Even though Denlinger is not involved with the new company, she still has a hand in science. "I am the vice president of the Matrix Biology Institute, founded by my husband as a non-profit, charitable organization to carry out basic research and promote scientific cooperation worldwide. I now have time to meet with scientists, students and research firms to discuss new areas of research and ways to cooperate in business."
Denlinger says that even though science and business are two different fields, their combination is responsible for her success. "In science the excitement comes from making a discovery, and often that's enough to maintain your interest on a long and hard road. In business, the satisfaction comes from a more external type of success, for example, approval of a therapeutic product by the FDA," she says. "Everything I have done, and every job I have had, has given me experience that I was able to apply not only to being part of a successful entrepreneurial company, but also to the rest of my life. I think my life could best be summed up as 'waste not, want not.' This is what made me a successful scientist-entrepreneur."
--Allyson A. Beutke
As twins, Marty and Stephen English have a lot in common. But they share more than physical traits: both received degrees in zoology from UF in 1976, and both are doctors practicing related fields of medicine. And their childhood fascination with TV cowboys has blossomed into a very grown-up enthusiasm for horses. "We are identical twins," Stephen says.
The brothers certainly have identical opinions of UF. "I had a great time as a student at UF. We went to every Gator football game, watched every Gator baseball game," Stephen says, adding that even though Marty lives in Texas, he is still a hardcore Gator fan.
"Some Texans give me a little grief," Marty laughs. "I follow the Gators very intently! I grew up a Florida fan and always wanted to go to school there. The academics and school atmosphere were great. I can't say enough positive things about it."
Stephen works as an oral and maxillofacial surgeon in Jacksonville. "This specialty encompasses wisdom teeth removal, gum implants and reconstructive jaw surgery. There are some oral surgeons now that do cosmetic surgery--that wasn't part of my training, so I don't do that," he says. "Marty is a plastic surgeon. When he lived here, we used to operate together, because our specialties both treat facial trauma."
The twins' surgical skills complement each other. "It goes quicker if you have two people doing the surgery. Plastic surgeons and oral surgeons receive slightly different training, so I learned some things from my brother and he learned some things from me. It was always fun to operate together," Marty says.
Whether growing up in Jacksonville or attending college in Gainesville, both brothers say there was never much competition between them. "We were real close. Even though we played football and baseball and were similarly academically inclined, we never had arguments or fought," Stephen says.
Marty laughs when remembering how he and his brother would emulate their TV heroes. "When we were little, we always dressed up in cowboy gear. We collected all the models of the cowboys and their horses," he says.
Wearing cowboy gear is more than a dress-up game for the brothers today. "I used to show horses and have won the Palomino World Championship and have also placed in the top ten at the quarter horse world show," Stephen says. "I don't show horses anymore, but I started team roping with some friends two years ago."
In team roping, two people rope and control a steer from horseback. "I'm just learning it now with my boys, who are 16 and 14," Marty says. "You have to be a good rider to try this. You don't want to wreck on a horse going at full speed."
With all these similarities, it is easy to believe that living apart has not affected the brothers' relationship. "I only get to see him two or three times a year, but we talk every day," Stephen says.
"We were only three minutes apart, so we are pretty close," Marty adds.