Robert Chess

Lecturer

Robert Chess

Lecturer in Management

Teaching Statement

Rob draws on his experience in starting and growing businesses across multiple industries — life sciences, cleantech, and information technology — in teaching courses on the health care industry and the business opportunity being created by increased longevity and aging demographics. Rob’s teaching focus is on exposing students to the complex, real-world issues and trade-offs they will face in starting, growing, and operating companies. He has been a lecturer at Stanford GSB since 2004.

Bio

Rob Chess is a serial entrepreneur in the life sciences field. He has served as Chairman of five companies, a member of the Boards of Directors of 11 companies, and co-founded two companies. He currently is Chairman of Nektar Therapeutics, (NASDAQ:NKTR), a health care biotechnology company; Chairman of BigHat Biosciences, which uses ML/AI in combination with a wetlab for antibody discovery and engineering; Chairman of Issio Solutions, a SaaS-based health care labor productivity and analytics company; and serves as Lead Director of Twist Biosciences (NASDAQ:TWST), a synthetic biology company. Rob joined Nektar as its first non-founder employee in 1991 and led the company as CEO through 1999 and as chairman since then. Rob co-founded and was president of Penederm, a dermatology company that went public and was acquired by Mylan Laboratories, and was the start-up CEO and later chairman of OPX Biotechnologies, a renewable chemicals company which was sold to Cargill. He also was the co-founder and chairman of Biota Technologies, a pioneering company in the use of DNA sequencing for energy and other industrial applications. He started his career in the technology field and held management positions at Intel and Metaphor Computer Systems (later acquired by IBM). Rob served on the White House staff in the George H.W. Bush Administration as a White House fellow and associate director of the White House Office of Economic and Domestic Policy.

In addition to his entrepreneurial endeavors and activities at the Stanford GSB, Rob was a trustee of Caltech from 2007–2023, where he served on the Board Executive Committee and as Chair of the Technology Transfer Committee for 10 years, and was a long-time board member of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization where he was chairman of the Emerging Companies Section and co-chairman of the Intellectual Property Committee. Rob received a BS in engineering with honors from Caltech and an MBA from Harvard.

Rob is an out-of-practice but avid golfer, a reformed political junkie, and a father of 26-year-old triplets.

Academic Degrees

  • MBA, Harvard University, 1980
  • BS in Engineering with honors, Caltech, 1978

Academic Appointments

  • At Stanford University since 2004

Professional Experience

  • President and CEO, Nektar Therapeutics, 1991–2001; Chairman, 2001–present
  • Lead Director, Twist Biosciences, 2014–present
  • Co-Founder, Biota Technologies; Chairman, 2013–2019
  • Chairman, OPX Biotechnologies, 2007–2015; CEO 2007–2008
  • Deputy Associate Director, White House Office of Economic and Domestic Policy, 1990–1991
  • White House Fellow, 1990–1991
  • Cofounder and President, Penderm, 1986–1989
  • Market Segment Manager, Metaphor Computer Systems, 1983–1985
  • Product Manager and Strategic Marketing Manager, Intel, 1980–1983

Stanford Case Studies

Rob Chess, Tim Rosenberger
2024
Robert Chess, Andrew Leon Hanna
2023
Robert Chess, Julie Makinen
2023
Rob Chess, Susan Pohlmeyer, Gelila Bekele
2022
Robert Chess, Jeffrey Conn, Lucy Montgomery
2022
Robert Chess, Jocelyn H. Hornblower
2022
Robert Chess, Susan Golden, Jack Strabo
2021
Robert Chess, Imogen Mansfield
2021
Robert Chess, Joseph Golden
2020
Robert Chess, Jocelyn H. Hornblower
2020
Robert Chess, Jeffrey Conn
2020
Robert Chess, Amadeus Orleans
2019
SM297
Robert Chess, Cameron Lehman
2018
Robert Chess, Julie Makinen
2018
Robert Chess, Cameron Lehman
2018
Robert Chess, Julie Makinen
2018
Robert Chess, Ryan Kissick
2016
Robert Chess, Ryan Kissick
2016
E331
Robert Chess, Claire Magat, Jessica Morgan
2015
Robert Chess, Ryan Kissick
2015
E496
Robert Chess, Yin Li
2014
Robert B. Chess, Austin Kiessig
2013
E476
Rob Chess, Peter Reiss. Justin Randolph
2013
Robert Chess, Sara Rosenthal
2013
E393
Robert Chess, Sara Rosenthal
2011
Robert Chess, Sara Leslie
2009
Robert Chess, Lyn Denend, Stefanos Zenios
2008
E286
Katherine Bose, Robert Chess, Peter Reiss
2008
E286B
Katherine Bose, Robert Chess, Peter Reiss
2008
E286C
Katherine Bose, Robert Chess, Peter Reiss
2008
E286D
Katherine Bose, Robert Chess, Peter Reiss
2008
Robert Chess, Lyn Denend, Sara Gaviser Leslie, Stefanos Zenios
2008
Robert Chess, Lyn Denend, Sara Gaviser Leslie, Stefanos Zenios
2008
Robert Chess, Peter Reiss, Sean Harrington, Matt Saucedo
2007
Robert Chess, Mark Leslie, Joshua Spitzer
2006
Robert Chess, Lyn Denend, Stefanos Zenios
2006
Robert Chess, Joshua Spitzer
2006
Robert Chess, Lyn Denend, Stefanos Zenios
2005
Robert Chess, Lyn Denend, Stefanos Zenios
2005
Robert Chess, Alicia Seiger
2004

Service to the Profession

  • Board of Trustees, California Institute of Technology, 2006-present
  • Chairman, Bio Ventures for Global Health, 2004-2009, Board member 2004-present
  • Board of Directors, Biotechnology Industry Organization, 1997-2008

Insights by Stanford Business

December 12, 2023
’Tis the season for personal and professional growth.
April 27, 2023
None of us are getting any younger. That could be a huge opportunity.
April 27, 2023
People around the world are living, working, and learning longer. Get ready to upgrade your old ideas about longevity.
May 18, 2020
If you’re thinking about a late-life career shift, here’s some advice from three people who did it right.
December 28, 2016
Take these life lessons to heart and reset your thinking for the new year.
September 11, 2015
Novice entrepreneurs often make the mistake of sticking with a business plan for too long.