BIO2017: BIO Leaders Honor Memory of Genzyme’s Henri Termeer

BIO Leaders Honor Memory of Genzyme’s Henri Termeer June 21, 2017
By Alex Keown, Breaking News Staff

SAN DIEGO – BIO International leaders called on member companies to honor the memory of trailblazing biotech pioneer Henri Termeer by keeping the welfare of patients at the forefront of every decision.

Termeer, the longtime chief executive officer of Genzyme and a pioneer in orphan drug development, died in May. He left behind a legacy of innovation with a passion for finding cures for rare diseases. As BIO kicked off this week, Termeer’s vision was hailed as one that should be upheld by leaders in the field. Not only was Termeer passionate about his role in finding cures for orphan diseases, he was also passionate about BIO, an organization he served in many capacities. That dedication to BIO helped the industry thrive.

John Maraganore, CEO of Alnylam Pharmaceuticals and the new chairman of BIO of BIO, said as he leads the industry group he will always ask, “What would Henri (Termeer) say? What would he do?”

“He urged us to stand up for what we believe is right and to always put patients first,” Maraganore said of Termeer.

The drive for new innovation is providing hope for so many facing terminal illnesses, he said. The innovations being made in the industry today will save lives tomorrow, he added. As a point, Maraganore said his mother died of CLL nine years ago. Had she been ill today, the advances made since her death would have likely saved her life, he said.

The next decade will bring about many more innovations for multiple conditions, he said.

“All the advances we experience today were envisioned by Henri Termeer in the 1980s,” Maraganore said.

James Greenwood, president and chief executive officer of BIO, said the industry has turned a corner as breakthroughs are being regularly made in research areas like immuno-oncology and CRISPR-Cas9.

“We’ve been talking about the potential of our industry for a very long time, and that future has arrived,” Greenwood said prior to a keynote address from former U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron.

Greenwood hailed the advances made not only in developing medicines for sick patients, but also in areas like agriculture.

That enthusiasm was shared by Ron Cohen, chief executive officer of Acorda Therapeutics and the outgoing chairman of BIO. He said the work companies are doing is a calling.

“From the most high comes a healing,” Cohen said, citing the book of Ecclesiastes. “There is nothing more fulfilling than to develop a therapy for someone who is so sick.”

But, it takes a lot of hard work and money to develop therapies for ill patients, particularly when only about 10 percent of all drugs that make it into the clinic pass all regulatory hurdles. Because of those difficulties, few companies in the sector are actually profitable, Cohen said.

Despite those struggles for advancing potential cures, Cohen said those in the industry are dedicating their lives to something meaningful. Even when a trial fails and stocks fall, Cohen said there is still hope.

As an example, he pointed to the company’s loss of key patents that protected its lead drug Ampyra, used to treat multiple sclerosis. That patent loss forced the company to terminate 20 percent of its workforce. But, Cohen said the company has seen a turnaround as it plans to file a New Drug Application for its inhaled Parkinson’s disease treatment, CVT-301. The highs and lows Cohen called the “yin and yang” of the industry. But those are necessary as they move forward in developing new therapies.

“Together we will heal, fuel and feed the world,” Cohen said.

Back to news