Spotlight on Immigrant Life Science Company Leaders in Massachusetts

Spotlight on Immigrant Life Science Company Leaders in Massachusetts
April 5, 2016
By Mark Terry, Breaking News Staff

It’s pretty well known that in Massachusetts the biotech industry is one of the strongest areas of the state’s economy. What is not always known, is just how much of that economic growth is driven by immigrants.

In a 2015 issue of Boston Business Journal, they listed the fastest-growing companies in the state and the top nine were all life science companies. The top companies based on percent change of revenue from 2012 to 2014 show a staggering improvement in revenue, from Ariad Pharmaceuticals ’ 18,791.04 percent increase to T2 Biosystems ’ more modest but still impressive 526.32 percent rise.

In light of the Republic presidential candidate frontrunners’ emphasis on tightening the borders, building a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, and sending armed law enforcement into Muslim neighborhoods, the Malden, Mass.-based Immigrant Learning Center plans to highlight the role immigrants have played in the Massachusetts economy when it hosts its fifth annual Immigrant Entrepreneur of the Year Awards.

It plans to honor 42 immigrants who have founded businesses in 18 communities in Massachusetts. They come from 26 countries.

Some of the data supporting these awards include the fact that of the most recent list of top 25 life science companies, which employ about 25,000 people in the state, seven of them (28 percent) had at least one founder who is an immigrant.

Nominees for the award in the Life Science Business category include:

1. Sudhir Agrawal of Idera Pharmaceuticals , in Cambridge,

2. PJ Anand, of Alcyone Lifesciences , in Lowell,

3. Garo Armen of Agenus , in Lexington,

4. Magadalena Leszczyniecka of STC Biologics, in Cambridge,

5. Bernat Olle of Vedanta Biosciences in Cambridge, 6. Elisabet de los Pinos of Aura Biosciences in Cambridge, and 7. Oliver Yu of Conagen in Bedford.

An earlier winner of the award includes Josef von Rickenbach, who is chairman and chief executive officer of Parexel International Corp. Rickenbach founded Parexel in 1982. Parexel is a contract research organization (CRO), which assists pharmaceutical companies in conducting clinical trials. The creation of Parexel was instrumental in creating the field of CROs. The company now operates more than 80 facilities in more than 51 countries, reported revenue of over $2 billion in 2015, and employs 18,660 people worldwide.

Idera Pharmaceuticals is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company working to develop novel nucleic acid therapeutic drugs for cancers and rare diseases.

Alcyone Lifesciences focuses on chronic neuropathological diseases, including brain tumors, hydrocephalus, epilepsy and neurodegenerative disease.

Agenus (AGEN) is an immuno-oncology company working with checkpoint modulators and adjuvants. It has a heat shock protein-based vaccine, Prophage, which has completed Phase II studies in newly-diagnosed glioblastoma. It also has collaboration deals with Merck and Incyte .

STC Biologics is a hybrid company that has a diverse mix of biosimilars and novel biologics, including working on a treatment for Zika virus. It also has services, including developing drugs from design to proof-of-concept, and various products that include peptides, oligonucleotides, targeted liposomes and others.

Vedanta Biosciences was founded by PureTech and is working on drugs that modulate the human microbiome, focusing initially on autoimmune and inflammatory diseases.

Aura Biosciences is focused on cancer therapy, in particular ocular melanoma. It utilizes an approach it calls “molecular surgery,” and the lead program is designed to remove cancer cells from the back of the eye.

Conagen is a leader in the area of bio-manufacturing, using synthetic biology tools to design metabolic pathways, improve production organisms and others.

The Boston Business Journal goes on to say, “The implication is that immigrants as a whole create more life science jobs in Massachusetts than they fill. Indeed, [Karen] Glover, [director of communications for the Immigrant Learning Center] says the idea for the annual Immigrant Entrepreneur of the Year Awards, now in its fifth year, came from a poster the center made that cites a statistic from a 2011 report finding that 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were co-founded by an immigrant to the U.S. or one of their children.”

Back to news