About Challenger Biosciences

Challenger Biosciences is a professional services and consulting company that helps its clients transform science into solutions that benefit our oceans and seas.

We blend our problem-solving approach with business-development acumen and a front-line practitioner’s understanding of marine science and technology. We focus on delivering unsurpassed service to venture philanthropists, impact investors, foundations, private companies, marine research institutes, government agencies, NGOs and others that share a common goal of addressing the plight of the world’s oceans.

Challenger Biosciences contracts with these entities and then works with the recipients of their grants and investments to navigate the uncertain waters that must be crossed in order to transform promising innovations into viable enterprises that deliver sustained returns on the triple bottom-line of people, planet and profit.

Founded by marine biologist and innovation leader Don Gerhart, the company’s name and culture reflect our love of the sea. Our dedication to the spirit of exploration, adventure and sacrifice in the work we do is embodied by Challenger Bioscience’s namesake, the HMS Challenger, whose global marine research expedition from 1872 to 1876 marked the birth of modern oceanography.

Though the marine world’s ties to our daily existence are often hidden and subtle, make no mistake: the sea is the wellspring of our lives, and indeed for all life on earth.
— Don Gerhart

About company founder Don Gerhart


Challenger Biosciences founder and president Don Gerhart has assessed thousands of inventions and worked with hundreds of new products and emerging enterprises during his 30-plus-year career. Many of these firms went on to be highly successful, with several reaching a total market capitalization of more than $1 billion.

Gerhart combines his expertise and entrepreneurial spirit with a strong emotional connection to the sea. He has spent his whole life in love with our oceans, first as a young boy curious about fossil seashells discovered in the Appalachian Mountains where he grew up, then as a highly-respected marine biologist, professor and researcher at the Duke University Marine Laboratory.  

Twenty-five years ago, a smoldering desire to work on connecting science to societal impact and solutions flared into full flame, and Don shifted his career to focus on the advancement of early-stage innovations. He soon joined Cato Research Ltd. (not related to the Cato Institute), a multi-national pharmaceutical development firm founded and run by Alan Cato and located in North Carolina’s famed Research Triangle.

At Cato Research, Don learned the demanding craft of life-science product development from some of the leading experts in the field, including those who had worked side-by-side with Nobel Prize-winning scientists George Hitchings, Gertrude Elion and Sir John Vane. Don's work let him see first-hand the efforts of companies that were racing to bring their innovations to market – and helped shape his own vision of problem-solving to transform innovative ideas into successful products and enterprises.

Before founding Challenger Biosciences, Don spent more than a decade as the leader of the University of Oregon’s Office of Technology Transfer. He also worked as associate director of the Office of Technology Transfer and Industry Research at North Carolina State University during a period when that program was ranked third in the nation for its effectiveness in linking scientific research to regional economic development.

Today, Gerhart lives just outside of Eugene, Oregon. His firm, Challenger Biosciences, works for clients who share his belief that it is imperative that we protect and restore our oceans from the ravages of human-caused degradation.

“Realizing the potential of science requires creative, dedicated, tenacious problem-solving,” he says.  “This cannot be done with cookie-cutter approaches.  Cutting-edge science deserves — and should demand — superb support from specialists of outstanding expertise. Nothing less will do.”


Accomplishments and credentials

  • Business development consultant to Schmidt Marine Technology Partners (http://www.schmidtmarine.org/team2/), a venture philanthropy program of The Schmidt Family Foundation established by Wendy Schmidt and Eric Schmidt, the former executive chairman of Google and Google's parent company, Alphabet Inc.  Schmidt Marine "supports the development of ocean technologies with compelling conservation and research applications, as well as strong commercialization potential."
  • Invited participant in SciFoo 2018, the "un-conference" organized by Google, O'Reilly Media and Digital Science with support from Nature Publishing Group.  Held at X (formerly Google X, the semi-secret research-and-development facility also known as The Moonshot Company), SciFoo18 brought together 330 invited participants from around the world who are doing groundbreaking work in diverse areas of science and technology.
  • Invited participant, 2018 U.S. National Academies Workshop on Government Decision-Making to Allocate Scientific Resources.
  • Keynote speaker and multi-session presenter, 2013 symposium "Growth Through Technology Transfer" held in Islamabad, Pakistan.  The symposium was organized by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and co-sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. State Department.
  • Sole or co-inventor on seven issued U.S. patents (six for non-toxic marine biofouling control agents, one for topical pharmaceutical formulations)
  • Expanded the technology transfer program at the University of Oregon, delivering 11 consecutive record years and an overall 25-fold increase in licensing revenue from 2001 through 2011
  • Collaborated with the University of Oregon's Lundquist College of Business, the UO Center for Law and Entrepreneurship and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to establish a highly successful innovation and entrepreneurship program for advanced-degree students. The program was ranked in the top 20 nationally.
  • Invited speaker, 2001 U.S. National Academies Workshop, “Marine Biotechnology in the Twenty-First Century:  Problems, Promise, and Products.”  Don was the sole speaker on technology transfer issues.
  • Registered U.S. Patent Agent (No. 42,572)

  • Founder of Cato Research’s first intellectual property group
  • Project leader for experimental therapeutics including three first-in-human clinical trials
  • Past service at the state, regional and local level included work as technical advisor to the Oregon Innovation Council and Oregon InC’s Capital Formation Committee; board member, Oregon Translational Research and Drug Discovery Institute; advisory board member, Center for Law and Entrepreneurship at the University of Oregon; Shining Star Award from the Eugene Chamber of Commerce for “Outstanding Vision, Commitment & Leadership.”