With Alnylam in rear view, Maraganore wants to be a biotech multiplier, matchmaker and mentor

After 19 years at the helm of Alnylam, John Maraganore, Ph.D., is not wasting any time getting started on the next phase of his career.

The former chief executive stepped down from the maker of Onpattro on New Year’s Eve, handing over the reins to Yvonne Greenstreet. Barely a week into 2022, a flurry of announcements has detailed his next steps: Maraganore has become the chair of Hemab Therapeutics’ board of directors; he’ll chair the n-Lorem Foundation’s advisory council; and, today, he’s being announced as an executive partner of RTW Investments.

That last one will put Maraganore at the center of an investment firm that once backed Alnylam when the company needed it most.

John Maraganore
John Maraganore, Ph.D.

“They had the vision to invest in Alnylam when most of the world had given up on the company,” Maraganore said in an interview with Fierce Biotech. “And obviously that just speaks to their abilities to see through what could be viewed as a contrarian view, but one that's driven by science and medicine at the end of the day.”

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Maraganore will take on an advisory role, or a “sounding board,” as the firm considers investment opportunities. After a 19-year journey as an executive building a company from scratch, the veteran also has plenty to offer on the people and talent acquisition side of things.

“I've seen a lot of the industry,” said Maraganore, who also holds board seats at Agios Pharmaceuticals, Beam Therapeutics and the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

That experience tells him the company he left behind is in good hands with Greenstreet, who was Maraganore’s natural successor in her role as president and chief operating officer.

“At the end of the day, what we've been able to do is really build a whole new class of medicines with RNAi therapeutics—something which will continue in the company's future,” he said.

Yvonne Greenstreet Alnylam
Yvonne Greenstreet
(Business Wire)

Maraganore settled on his decision to move on from Alnylam in October. He remembers the initial conversations with Greenstreet: “Initially, she was upset and didn't want me to go, because we've had a wonderful working relationship together.” But Maraganore had no doubt she was the right leader to take over.

“I feel very blessed to have been able to be part of building what I believe is a great company and one that will continue to do great things from a technology and patient perspective, but I want to now be a multiplier in the industry,” Maraganore said.

The executive will now share his Alnylam experience with a larger number of emerging biotechs, whether they are just starting out or already exist and are in need of guidance. He plans to join some boards of companies he’s excited about and mentor future leaders in the industry.

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As for what types of science he will be interested in, Maraganore said he’s “very partial to platforms, obviously.” This is when a company develops a proprietary method to improve efficiency and quality in drug development rather than just targeting a single product. Alnylam has its RNAi therapeutics platform that forms the core of its drug discovery and development. Many newer biotechs launch their platforms, use tools to identify drug candidates and move them into the clinic, either alone or with a partner company.

That last part is something Maraganore will be especially useful for. While he obviously has a direct line to Greenstreet at Alnylam for a potential licensing or other research deal, he also has a Rolodex full of names across the industry to leverage.

“Thankfully, because I've been in the industry long enough, I've got a lot of great contacts with other companies as well, both biotech and pharma,” Maraganore said. “Being able to do matchmaking is something which is always important.”

While his roles at RTW, Atlas Ventures and Arch Ventures, the latter of which he joined in December, are more on the investment side of things, Maraganore said his board appointments will allow him to help the executive teams as they develop new companies.

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Biotech is benefiting from “an abundance of incredible science … and we're really at the beginnings of an explosion of biological opportunities,” Maraganore said. His advice to new CEOs heading to investor meetings is to focus on and follow the science, develop a good reputation in the industry and demonstrate a commitment to advancing innovative products and medicines.

One thing he’s almost completely certain of is that he doesn’t want to be in that CEO role again.

“I just had the greatest CEO job at Alnylam so I'm not sure why I'd want to go do a CEO job someplace else,” he said with a laugh. “But you just never say never in this business or in this world. Right now, I'm really focused on this new chapter and I'm excited about it.”