is a very important market for us”
—Henri Termeer, chairman, president and CEO, Genzyme
Genzyme is perhaps one of the largest biotechnology companies in the
world with innovation at its core and a strong commitment to
patients, a large scientific base and a strong global prsence. Genzyme,
headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts has risen from a small
start-up in Boston in 1981 to a diversified enterprise with
annual revenues exceeding $3 billion, 10,000 employees to
date with established products and services helping patients in nearly
90 countries. No wonder then that its CEO, Henri Termeer was invited as
one of the co-chairs of The India Economic Summit held in November in
Delhi. It was a credit to his leadership that Genzyme was
chosen to receive the National Medal of Technology, the highest honor
awarded by the President of the United States for technological
innovation in 2007. When asked what would drive the biotech companies
in the future, his answer is
simple—“Innovation”. It is more than apt
for a company that is driven by the passion to find out new cures for
rare and neglected diseases. We find out this and more in a
conversation with its CEO, Henri Termeer.
how you have seen the change in the biotechnology industry in the last
two decades and how has the company been addressing the changing
Medicines developed by biotechnology companies over the past 30 years
have transformed lives. But we are just getting
started. We were fortunate to have an early success
to develop a treatment for a very rare disease – Gaucher
Disease. It was natural that we would build upon this success and apply
what we learned to other rare diseases. As we have evolved our strategy
over the last several years to diversify our portfolio to include
diseases that affect much larger populations,based on clear,
identifiable needs. I have worked in this industry for 25
years, and I see so much potential and promise still to be realized,
not in the distant future, but in the next 15 years .
Innovative ideas and promising therapies are being developed by
biotechnology companies, large and small.
What are some of the
focus areas for the company? What have been the best selling and
revenue grossing products during 2007-08?
Genzyme today is a highly diversified company that focuses on several
broad areas of medicine. We started with a focus on products to treat
rare diseases, and this remains the largest business area for us. We
also are focused on kidney disease, cancer, transplant and bio-surgical
products. In addition, we have a large diagnostic testing component to
our business. Our newest product is Myozyme, which was introduced in
2006 and we expect it to generate nearly $300 million in revenue during
2008. We have recently got FDA approval for Mozobil. This product will
increase the ability of patients with certain types of cancers to
receive vital stem cell transplants.
What are the
company’s revenues in 2008? How much of it is derived from
the Asia-Pacific region?
The expected revenue of Genzyme in 2008 is $4.5–4.7 billion
as against $3.8 billion in 2007. More than half of our total revenue is
derived from outside of the United States. We were the first
US biotechnology company to establish a presence in Japan where we have
been for more than two decades, but we are just starting to establish a
presence in several countries throughout Asia, and look forward to
becoming active participants in these markets.
With a presence in 90
countries, are there any emerging markets that you see? Are you looking
at expansion in any more countries?
Genzyme has always operated on a global scale. Our role is to make
products available to patients wherever they are, and we strive to have
a direct presence in countries wherever possible. Again, we are
beginning to plant roots in Asia, to earn our position in the market.
We have a lot of work ahead of us, we are excited about growing and
sustaining our presence in these regions.
How does India figure
in the global strategy of the company?
India is a very important market for us. We are dedicated to build a
sustainable presence in India: We have treated patients free-of-charge,
worked with local officials to build productive relationships, and very
recently, established our first commercial office in Gurgaon. We will
continue to work with local officials and public and private
institutions as we remain committed to deliver life-saving therapies to
the patients who need them.
This year saw the
announcement on opening up of an R&D development center in
Beijing as a part of your global expansion strategy. Are you looking at
R&D collaborations in India?
This year we announced plans to build a research facility in Beijing,
and we anticipate that this center will open in 2010. Our belief is
that to be successful in a country, you must actively participate in
that country and earn a position in that market. Therefore, we are
working hard to establish a presence in China and in India through
collaborations with local officials, patient organizations, academic
and medical institutions, as well as other biotechnology companies.
Through our HAND initiative, we work with various institutions around
the globe to help develop treatments for rare diseases. In India, we
have two collaborations focused on developing new treatments for
malaria. We recently announced a new collaboration with the
International Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB),
a global nonprofit research institution based out of New Delhi to
advance treatments for neglected diseases, most notably, malaria.
Genzyme, Medicines for Malaria (MMV) and Bangalore-based
Advinus Pharmaceuticals have also partnered to identify novel agents to
fight malaria. The team is currently screening for compounds that are
active against target enzymes essential for the survival of the malaria
parasite. We have made great progress so far, and in fact will be
presenting six abstracts at the American Society of Tropical Medicine
that will showcase our momentum.
How do you see Indian
companies playing a role in drug discovery globally given your
collboration with Advinus Therapeutics?
The type of collaboration with Advinus is a powerful example of how
industry can partner to fight the devastating impact of diseases.
Advinus brings valuable, local expertise in Malaria and target
identification, and Genzyme brings drug development expertise. By
working together, we have the remarkable ability to turn the promise of
science into meaningful and sustainable therapies for populations most
at risk in India and around the world.
What is your annual
R&D spending? What are some of the focus areas for the
R&D currently that are being worked upon?
We invest approximately 20 percent of our revenue annually in
R&D. Some key programs include Alemtuzumab for
multiple sclerosis and Mipomersen for cardiovascular disease, which has
the potential to transform the standard of care. The results
for the Phase 2 study of Alemtuzumab were published recently in the New
England Journal of Medicine.
Genzyme has signed
the biggest ever deal in the field of adult stem cell therapy with
Osiris Therapeutics. By when do you expect the drugs to be marketed?
Genzyme has a long history of work in cell therapy and we are a pioneer
in this field. We developed and commercialized the first-ever
cell therapy product approved by the FDA, Carticel, used in knee
cartilage repair, we manufacture Epicel, for the treatment of severe
burns, and have investigated cell therapy treatments in the areas of
Parkinson’s and heart disease. Genzyme has a very
strong track record in developing and commercializing unique,
breakthrough therapies, so a collaboration with Osiris is a natural
fit. Prochymal is the furthest along in development for graft versus
host disease; results for phase III trials are expected next year, with
U S approval anticipated as early as the end of next year and EU
approval anticipated in 2010. We are optimistic that these
drugs could change the treatment scenario for a wide range of diseases
because they are designed to provide therapeutic benefit by controlling
inflammation, promoting tissue regeneration and preventing scar
Has the US economic
slowdown impacted the US pharma and biotech industry, and do you think
it is going to have any global repurcussions?
Historically, pharma and biotech have been spared the brunt of these
types of economic downturns—they are often considered
“safe” stocks by investors. But, this crisis is not
being felt only in the United States. It is a global economic crisis
that we are now experiencing that and it will leave no industry
unaffected. Companies must avoid rapid expansion plans. Though we
intend to grow our global presence, we will be watching our operations
What is your vision
for the next few years?
Though Genzyme is 27 years old, we still feel very much like a young
company. We are committed to bringing transformative medicines through
the drug development process and ultimately to patients who need them
in a variety of disease areas, including cancer, cardiovascular and