Not in Genentech's Shadow Anymore, Biogen Idec, Inc. (California) Makes Huge Comeback in Biotech

Published: Dec 06, 2012

Recruiters often reached out to George Scangos, a confident, analytical type who three years ago was running a small biotech company in South San Francisco. On this winter day the headhunter had something that was more intriguing than usual–the prospect of leading a much bigger drugmaker. She wouldn’t say which one, but Scangos says it was obvious, “if you had half a brain.” Only one company in his industry had a CEO being savaged by Carl Icahn in a proxy battle, while its top-selling drugs were facing competition and safety controversies. The top job at Biogen Idec? No, thanks. “It just didn’t seem like that great a situation to me,” Scangos says about the call. But in the weeks that followed, Scangos found himself slowly coming around. First, there was Biogen’s history as one of the first and best biotechnology companies ever, founded in 1978 in Geneva by some of the world’s top biologists, inspired by the creation of Genentech two years before. One founder, Wally Gilbert, won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry while he was chairman. Biogen went on to create one of the first treatments for hepatitis C and the vaccine given for hepatitis B before becoming a dominant player in treating multiple sclerosis. Yes, Biogen had evolved into a directionless bureaucracy, but Scangos had a hunch that the soul of those early days was still in there, somewhere. “This isn’t a job offer. It’s an intelligence test,” one industry friend told him. “If you get offered that job, you take it, period.”

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