Henri Termeer, one of the greatest and most successful visionaries in biotech, has died. According to the Boston Globe, Termeer collapsed at his Marblehead home on Friday evening. He was 71.
Termeer’s legacy rests on growing Genzyme into a world leader in orphan drug R&D, developing drugs for tiny patient populations, saving lives and pioneering an aggressive pricing strategy that made the field a popular focus among a whole generation of startups. (The 10 most expensive therapies on the planet are all orphan drugs.) Sanofi CEO Chris Viehbacher saw the value, and bought the company for about $20 billion in 2011, after Termeer had run the company for 30 years — a rare feat in this industry.
Over the last six years, Termeer stayed active in biotech, serving on boards at Moderna, Verastem and others and investing part of the $158 million windfall of cash he earned in the Sanofi buyout in a long lineup of upstarts. Arrakis, founded by serial entrepreneur Michael Gilman, was the most recent to earn his support just last February. He backed Kees Been as a co-founder at Lysosomal Therapeutics. And he clearly enjoyed working with many of his old Genzyme colleagues as they left to take other positions in the Biotech/Cambridge biotech hub he helped create.
He never lost his love of launching new companies.
“It is just in that phase of trying to define its identity and what it is going to develop all the way by itself,” Termeer said of Moderna back in 2013 in an interview with FierceBiotech. “That is a fantastic moment because with that you shape what the future will look like.”
Termeer always kept focused on shaping the future. And biotech will be feeling the effects for years to come.
We’ve gathered a few tributes from Twitter and we’ll continue to add to this through Sunday.
— Bob Coughlin MassBio (@BobCoughlin) May 13, 2017
A giant of biotech has passed. RIP. Henri Termeer. You will be greatly missed.
— Bruce Booth (@LifeSciVC) May 13, 2017
A giant has left us. I have just been informed that Henri Termeer has died suddenly and unexpectedly at age 71. A pillar of #biotechnology.
— Ron Cohen Acorda CEO (@roncohenshair) May 13, 2017
Shocked and saddened to hear Henri Termeer passed away at 71. I just saw him in Boston. One of biotech's pioneers. https://t.co/Z9ZVhJ4DS2
— Meg Tirrell (@megtirrell) May 13, 2017
140 characters not enough to explain why Henri Termeer was such an icon, so read this: https://t.co/L5IK9BPYmF He was a gem. RIP Henri.
— Sue Desmond-Hellmann (@SueDHellmann) May 13, 2017
Henri was an amazing board member & coach. He cared deeply about doing the right thing for patient. We will miss him https://t.co/fF78B3xwAe
— stephane bancel (@sbancel) May 13, 2017
Deeply, truly committed to patients and a ferocious believer in and supporter of the life science community. Gone well before his time. https://t.co/FKKVtsRStv
— Michael Gilman (@michael_gilman) May 13, 2017
Image: Feb. 16, 2011: Henri Termeer, chief executive officer of Genzyme, listens during a news conference announcing the deal where France’s Sanofi-Aventis agreed to buy Termeer’s company, ending a nine-month pursuit of Genzyme. Bloomberg via Getty Images
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