Randal J. Kirk (born March 1, 1954) is an American businessman and investor in pharmaceuticals and biotechnology. Kirk is the chairman and chief executive officer of Intrexon (NYSE: XON), a biotechnology company. Kirk started as a lawyer, but is best known for his investments in pharmaceutical and biotech companies. In addition to high-profile sales of New River Pharmaceuticals, Inc., and Clinical Data, Inc, Kirk also founded investment firm Third Security, LLC, and has held board seats with biotech companies, such as Scios, Inc., and ZIOPHARM Oncology. He is a billionaire and is listed on the Forbes 400.
Early life and education
Randal J. Kirk was born in Pleasanton, California. The son of an U.S. Air Force master sergeant, Kirk and his family moved from California to Texas before settling in Virginia. Kirk graduated from Dublin High School in Pulaski County, Virginia. Following high school, Kirk worked selling cars and motorcycles, and enrolled part-time at Radford University to study business. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Economics at Radford in 1976, followed by a Juris Doctor at the University of Virginia in 1979.
Kirk was admitted to the bar in 1980, becoming the only attorney in Bland, Virginia, and began a practice he ran until 1990. In 1983, he partnered with Bland County pharmacist John Gregory to found the next-day pharmaceutical distributor General Injectables and Vaccines. Kirk and his partners would go on to sell the business to Henry Schein, Inc. for $65 million in 1998.
In 1996, Kirk founded New River Pharmaceuticals, where he served as chairman and CEO and took the company public in 2004. The developer of attention-deficit drug Vyvanse, New River would prove to be Kirk’s single biggest payoff when he sold the company to Shire in 2007 for $2.6 billion, making over a $1 billion for Kirk himself.
In 1999, Kirk founded the life-sciences investment firm Third Security, LLC, where he is senior managing director, CEO and chairman. From 2000 to 2002, Kirk served as a member of the board of directors for Scios, Inc., a maker of heart disease medication that later sold to Johnson & Johnson for $2.4 billion. Kirk also became the majority stock holder and chairman of Newton, Massachusetts-based pharmaceutical company Clinical Data, Inc. In 2011, shortly after Clinical Data’s drug Viibryd received regulatory approval, Forest Laboratories bought Clinical Data for $1.2 billion.
Kirk became involved with biotechnology company Intrexon in the 2000s. He was named chairman of its board in 2008 and became CEO in 2009. Kirk took Intrexon public in 2013, taking the company’s market cap to $2.5 billion with the IPO.
Kirk is involved in a number of companies advocating the approval of genetically-altered animals, including salmon (through AquaBounty), disease-resistant mosquitoes (through Oxitec), and an apple which resists browning (through Okanagan Specialty Fruits). Other projects of Kirk’s companies include creating cancer treatments, gasoline substitutes, crop protection, and improving bovine genetics.