Henri Termeer has taken another fledgling drug developer under his wing. The former Genzyme CEO and chairman has joined the biotech Prosensa as a strategic adviser, bringing his experience in building Genzyme into a world leader in rare diseases. His arrival comes as Prosensa's lead drug against an orphan disease known as Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) advances in late-stage development with partner GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK).
While adviser titles are often ceremonial, Termeer has some interesting connections to Leiden, the Netherlands-based Prosensa (a 2012 Fierce 15 company) worth noting. Termeer, now a U.S. citizen, grew up in the Netherlands and has been involved with the life sciences scene in the country. Also, Prosensa CEO Hans Schikan is a Genzyme veteran and has obviously followed in the footsteps of the biotech giant in focusing on rare inherited diseases.
Termeer's stated role at Prosensa will be to provide advice for the biotech's "corporate strategy and growth plans." Venture-backed Prosensa has a technology that could provide an array of RNA therapies for different variants of DMD, which affects about 1 in 3,500 male births and causes muscle wasting that leads to premature death. Its lead therapy 051, which GSK is developing, has shown a mean improvement of 11 meters in a walking distance test after two years in patients whose crippling disease would typically cause major drops in walking ability during that time.
This could bode well for other therapies in the company's pipeline. Yet the company's experimental treatments face competition from Sarepta Therapeutics ($SRPT), which turned in dramatic results from a small midstage study of its RNA therapy in patients with DMD and saw its stock price sizzle as a result.
Termeer, as one would expect, sounded upbeat about Prosensa's future.
"Prosensa has the key ingredients of a successful company in the rare disease community: breakthrough science, a highly motivated workforce and a passionate commitment to improving the lives of patients," Termeer said in a statement. "I am very much looking forward to working with the Prosensa team."
Termeer has been keeping busy since retiring from Genzyme in 2011 after the buyout of the Cambridge, MA-based biotech powerhouse by Sanofi ($SNY) for more than $20 billion. He's taken on the role of chairman of cancer drug specialists Aveo Oncology ($AVEO) and Verastem ($VSTM) in the Boston area and has funded research of targeted treatments at Massachusetts General Hospital with a $10 million donation.
- here's the release
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Henri Termeer joins Prosensa as a strategic adviser. With deep roots in rare disease space, will this be an important boost?
With input from @JohnCFierce and @RyanMFierce