John Maraganore wanted to become a biotech granddad after leaving Alnylam. With his new role at RTW, it looks like he got his wish
On his way out of Alnylam, outgoing CEO John Maraganore, who had led the biotech through thick and thin for 19 years, said late last year he wanted to advise new biotech companies in the grandfather phase of his career.
“It’s like a grandfather, right? You get the benefit of loving your grandchildren, but not having to take care of them all the time,” Maraganore said at the time. “I want to be a granddad.”
And with his newest appointments in biotech and venture, it looks like his wish has been granted — with a whirlwind five announcements and some big names.
One of those recent announcements is the proverbial icing on the cake: Maraganore is joining RTW Investments as an executive partner.
RTW had invested in Alnylam before the biotech had its first drug — Onpattro — approved in 2018. And RTW, as a major player in the global VC sphere, has invested in quite a few other biotechs — just shy of 40, according to the investment firm’s website.
“When the rest of the world was skeptical of Alnylam, RTW believed in our vision for RNAi therapeutics and exhibited the long-term, science-based investment approach the firm is known for,” said Maraganore in a prepared statement with RTW. “I’m joining RTW as executive partner because I share that approach and have seen first-hand the power it can have to impact patients’ lives.”
Two days before his appointment was announced at RTW, the n-Lorem Foundation — the brainchild of Ionis founder Stanley Crooke — announced that Maraganore was joining the team as chair of its advisory council. The antisense oligonucleotide medicines foundation put Maraganore in charge of a team of n-Lorem advisors to focus on fundraising opportunities.
The next day, bleeding disorder outfit Hemab Therapeutics, led by Alnylam alum Benny Sorensen, announced on Wednesday that Maraganore was joining up as board chair — and Maraganore was all happy about it. Per his Twitter feed,
Very excited to join @hemab_tx as chair! Major opportunity to conquer rare bleeding disorders with innovation! Getting “band back together” w/ @benny_sorensen! https://t.co/DMW55Ra2nj
— John Maraganore (@JMaraganore) January 5, 2022
Sorensen worked at Alnylum for several years, working his way up to senior director of clinical research before leaving in 2016.
Several hours after that announcement, Atlas Venture followed suit — announcing via Twitter that Maraganore has joined up with Atlas as a venture advisor. This made his second position in the VC realm and his fifth position since he announced his imminent departure from Alnylam — officially retiring from the biotech giant on December 31.
Excited to announce that John Maraganore has joined Atlas as a Venture Advisor, to help our entrepreneurs build the next generation of great biotechs. After working with @JMaraganore closely in the first decade of $ALNY, Atlas is thrilled to welcome him “back” into the family!
— Atlas Venture (@atlasventure) January 5, 2022
And as of 6:45 am this morning, Maraganore is partnering with cell therapy outfit SQZ Biotechnologies as a strategic advisor.
So far, the past 48 hours and five newest posts put Maraganore in a head-spinning eight appointments. Before the appointment deluge, Maraganore announced he was leaving Alnylam in late October and had partnered with:
- Beam Therapeutics, a gene therapy upstart out of David Liu’s lab. CEO John Evans timed the announcement of Maraganore joining the biotech’s board in early November with Beam’s announcement of regulatory clearance for their very first IND for BEAM-101, a potential one-time treatment for sickle cell, which marked a shift in Beam no longer being just a preclinical biotech with potential — but now a clinical-stage company with high expectations;
- SalioGen, a small gene coding biotech that emerged out of a stretch in stealth with $20 million in March. Maraganore joined up as one of three heavyweight advisors to the company and CEO Ray Tabibiazar, alongside financial engineer Andrew Lo — the one who helped establish BridgeBio and Roivant — and former FDA commish Mark McClellan. At the time, Tabibiazar told Endpoints that to get John on board, “I thought it would be a miracle to get him,” he said. “To us, he was a celebrity.” And when John agreed, he told Ray: “I am here to share my scars with you.”
- ARCH Venture as a new venture partner, his first foray post-Alnylam into VC — joining other biotech bigwig names such as ex-FDA official Luciana Borio, Axel Bouchon (former head of Leaps by Bayer), Jake Bauer (previously at MyoKardia) and Sabah Oney (of Alector fame). The Bob Nelson-led VC has access to its largest-ever fund of $1.85 billion, giving more opportunities to invest in gene editing, cell therapy and mental health.
With someone as well-known as Maraganore, it would not surprise people who keep close tabs on the industry if he took at least five board positions — with room for even more on the VC side of biotech. And now that he has eight new roles in biotech, it’s only a matter of time to see what else happens — and who’s next in line for the “Maraganore touch” and ensuing publicity.