Rick Birkmeyer is the CEO of CD Diagnostics and a managing partner at Leading Edge Partners. An accomplished executive and entrepreneur, Dr. Birkmeyer is also the founder of Strategic Diagnostics, a biomedical firm he started in 1990 and built into a multimillion-dollar public company listed on NASDAQ. His current company, CD Diagnostics, provides physicians with analytical tools through corporate partnerships, developing immunoassays to improve patient outcomes. In his role at Leading Edge Partners, Dr. Birkmeyer helps invest in early-stage companies in Delaware and the surrounding region.
Rick Birkmeyer spoke with citybizlist publisher Edwin Warfield for this interview.
EDWIN WARFIELD: Where is CD Diagnostics today, and how did you get your start there?
RICK BIRKMEYER: CD Diagnostics was founded four years ago. We have grown to about 110 people at this point in time, $20 million in revenue. We make medical diagnostic test kits for the orthopedic community.
How I started my career is pretty much something that was focused way from an early age. One of the things that I always told everybody when I was in high school was that I was going to come up with a cure for cancer and start my own medical company. I started this by going off to college first, for a degree in microbiology, and then for a PhD in immunology, which really focused me on the medical side. I came right here in Philadelphia with a small company called Philadelphia Biologics. They originally started off as having me as a director, but very quickly wanted me to become the CEO.
As I started that job, I recognized I really didn’t have the skills to be a CEO of a company, so I went to DuPont. DuPont is one of the leading companies in this area. It has a tremendous amount of history, but more importantly it knows how to do business. I did a stint of two years, first in the research group, then moved into the development group in “How do you develop a product to reach the market?” Then, I went into manufacturing, as to learn how procedures are needed, how all the necessary things to make it a reproducible product. Lastly, I worked in their corporate development group, which I think really broadened my knowledge of how a company should do that.
When I was working with DuPont, one of the groups that was part of DuPont at the time was Conoco Oil. They had spent $17 million developing a little rapid test that looks much like a home pregnancy test kit. It was for bacteria that was found in oil wells that very quickly could eat through a stainless shaft and cause that well to go down for days. They wanted a test that could very quickly say: “Is this bacteria present so that we can treat this well with biocide?” Within DuPont, they spent the $17 million developing this test. They brought it to my group to manufacture it, and lo and behold, they found out that the product couldn’t be frozen and had to be refrigerated. Well, that’s a real problem when your market is Abu Dhabi and the north slopes of Alaska. So, I convinced them to support me, give me a grant, move outside of DuPont, and start up my first company, Strategic Diagnostics. So, that’s how I got started.