CSU provided launching pad for biomedical entrepreneur, Distinguished Alumnus

Dean Tsao has founded and led six successful biomedical companies. But in 1968, when he arrived at Colorado State University from Taiwan to get his Ph.D., he had just $800 to his name – and little knowledge about his new home.

“I had never been to the U.S., and I didn’t know a single person here,” he said. “But I knew it was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up.”

Thanks to passionate faculty mentors, a welcoming community and supportive scholarships, Tsao excelled as a doctoral student in the biochemistry and molecular biology department, earning his Ph.D. in 1973.

“The biochemistry department immediately made me feel comfortable and would soon become my second family,” he said.

College of Natural Sciences Distinguished Alumnus

Tsao was selected as this year’s College of Natural Sciences Distinguished Alumnus and also delivered a keynote speech at the college’s Scholarship and Fellowship Recognition Luncheon. The annual luncheon acknowledges donors who fund scholarships and the students who receive them. This year’s event was the largest yet, with nearly 300 gathering to meet and share stories in the ballroom of the Lory Student Center at Colorado State University.

Dean Tsao
Distinguished Alumnus Dean Tsao spoke at the College of Natural Sciences Scholarship and Fellowship Recognition Luncheon, Oct. 6.

“Each year, I look forward to this special gathering because it brings together people who care deeply about higher education and the value it brings to society and to our future,” said Dean Jan Nerger on the occasion. Nerger expressed her gratitude to all of the donors present, including Tsao and his family, “who are truly making a difference for individual students as well as for the greater good of our society.”

Classroom to boardroom

Tsao had chosen Colorado State University’s biochemistry program sight unseen. In fact, before crossing the Pacific Ocean, he had never traveled outside of his hometown. But he knew that earning a degree in the U.S. was a mark of achievement. And he was determined to make the undertaking happen.

“After only a quarter, I was given a scholarship, and later a fellowship, which enabled me to finish my studies and receive my Ph.D.,” he told the audience at the luncheon. “As someone who has come here with very little means and even less knowledge of their surroundings, I understand the importance of a scholarship to a student like me: a person who has the desire to learn more about their passions and just needs a little help to get them there to achieve their career goals.”

After graduating, Tsao received the American Heart Association Post-Doctorate Fellowship. He also served as a visiting professor at the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine, Beijing; an adjunct professor at the Chang Gung Medical College, Taiwan; and a visiting scientist at the Veterans General Hospital, Taiwan.

He has dedicated his professional career to discovering and manufacturing products to diagnose and treat major diseases, including HIV, Down syndrome, and cancer. He is currently the founder, CEO and chairman of PlexBio, Co.

“My studies at CSU allowed me to build a foundation of knowledge and gave me the tools to continuously adopt new knowledge and development in the field of biotechnology,” he said. “My close interaction with the professors built my lifetime passion for biomedical science, which is why I am still deeply involved in the biotechnology today.”