"One of the big problems we had in venture capitalism was that in order to check an idea, you had to start a company," says David Rammler. But no more. Rammler, an organic chemist-turned-financier who has been involved with eight startups and is a former director of research in the Institute for Molecular Biology at Syntex Corp., solved that problem a year ago by forming a venture capital firm that employs more scientists than MBAs--and which thoroughly tests ideas from potential scientist/entrepreneurs before handing over the cash. Called Synthon Ventures (Palo Alto, Calif.), the company is dedicated to developing products in the field of mammalian cell culture and immunology. This is how it works: Promising ideas submitted by outside scientists or generated from within Synthon Ventures are tested at the firm's lab--the Institute Synthon--while simultaneously a market group determines what product could best be developed from the new technology. Once...

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