SAN DIEGO—When Ivor Royston founded his first biotech company in 1978, the 33-year-old assistant professor at the University of California, San Diego had no idea it would make him so rich and...infamous.

Royston did know he was taking a risk. But his idea, to start the first company in the nation to sell monoclonal antibodies to other labs, was so compelling that he decided to gamble his career at UCSD. “I had only been there a year. I wasn’t even tenured,” recalls Royston, going on to say: "I thought it might jeopardize my career, but I also had a gut feeling that this was the right thing to do,”

Financially, the grand gamble paid off. Today, at 43, Royston is immensely wealthy, the founder of two biotechnology companies and still a university professor. He works in his lab, conducts clinical trials at the UCSD medical center, and spends a couple...

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