Biogen R&D Head Jumps Ship to Helm Unnamed Startup

Biogen R&D Head Jumps Ship for Unnamed Startup
July 10, 2015
By Riley McDermid, Breaking News Sr. Editor

Another major biotech executive has jumped shipped to join an unnamed startup, after Biogen, Inc. said Friday that Douglas Williams, head of the company’s Research and Development unit, will leave at the end of July.

Williams is leaving to become “the first member of a new organization with potential in cancer diagnostics and therapy,” said Biogen, which did not respond to a request for additional comment.

Biogen said Williams’ responsibilities will now be shifted to the company’s CMO, Alfred Sandrock, and Spyros Artavanis-Tsakonas, its chief scientific officer.

“All of us at Biogen appreciate Doug’s contributions to the rapid development of our Research and Development organization,” said George A. Scangos, chief executive officer. “We are fortunate to have Al Sandrock and Spyros Artavanis-Tsakonas to lead the work to which Biogen is dedicated.”

Williams now joins a club of pharma head honchos who have decided the startup life is for them, including Briggs Morrison, AstraZeneca PLC ’s chief medical officer and head of global late-stage drug development, who left to join scrappy startup Syndax Pharmaceuticals Inc.; and Pfizer Inc. board member Marc Tessier-Lavigne stepping down to join the board of his own pet project, Denali, full-time.

All of these men’s companies have thus far been supportive, but it doesn’t always work out that way: Earlier this summer Bristol-Myers Squibb Company said it was suing a former cancer head who left the company for AstraZeneca.

BMS said David Berman violated agreements that prevented him from using confidential and trade secret information when he accepted a job at London-based AstraZeneca, which is also developing treatments that use the immune system to fight cancer. The lawsuit was filed in Delaware, which is where AstraZeneca’s U.S. offices are based.

As New Jersey Biotech Booms, Will It Overtake Other States As Prime Location?
A week after Celgene Corporation announced it is officially the mystery buyer of Merck & Co. ’s former 1 million-square-foot R&D site in Summit, N.J., it quickly became our most popular story last week.

The company announced last Wednesday that it is buying the space, ending months of speculation about what Big Pharma company might move into the neighborhood.

The Summit, N.J. site is zoned research/office. The New Jersey site would put operations closer to some of the major biotech and pharmaceutical hubs on the East Coast.

But, by far, the most tempting part of doing business in the state remains New Jersey’s operating tax credit, which allows companies to sell their net operating losses to the New Jersey Treasury. One of the state’s most recognizable biotechs, Celgene, used the program until it became profitable, which was key to it staying in the state, said local officials.

That has BioSpace is wondering if New Jersey is becoming the new face of biotech. What do you think? Can the Garden State compete with other longtime stalwarts like California or Boston?

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