Biotech heavyweight Art Levinson takes chairman job at Apple

Biotech veteran Art Levinson has served on Apple's ($AAPL) board of directors amid an incredible 11-year run, during which the tech giant has introduced the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad and has grown its market value at a dizzying clip. Now the former CEO of Genentech has been tapped to be Apple's non-executive chairman, taking over the chairmanship after the company's previous chairman, Steve Jobs, died last month after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

Levinson, a biochemist by training, might not know how to engineer a hot mobile gadget, but he is well versed in the vital role of advancing technology to stay on top of an industry. Genentech, which he joined as a research scientist in 1980, grew from a startup into a multibillion-dollar biotech before 2009 when Roche bought the company. Levinson led the biotech giant as CEO from 1995 to 2009, during which time the company scored approvals for blockbuster cancer drugs such as Herceptin and Avastin.

"I am honored to be named chairman of Apple's board," Levinson said in Apple's press release distributed yesterday. "Apple is always focused on out-innovating itself through the delivery of truly innovative products that simplify and improve our lives, and that is something I am very proud to be a part of." Levinson stood by Apple in 2009 when the feds forced him to choose between serving on that company's board or web giant Google's board, USA Today reported.

Jobs, one of the greatest business icons of his generation, saw the value in having a standout biotech executive on Apple's board. "Art is a highly respected CEO and leads one of the most important and successful science-based companies of our time," Jobs said, when Levinson became a member of the board in 2000, as quoted by Mashable.

- here's Apple's release
- read Bloomberg's article
- and the Mashable piece

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