Strategic investment in promising technology
Title: Senior Vice President, Shire Strategic Investment Group
Shire ($SHPG) has soared in recent years through M&A and technology licensing deals. Gwen Melincoff is a key force behind many of those agreements, and she has played a crucial role in helping the global specialty biopharmaceutical company grow. Through her current position as head of Shire's Strategic Investment Group and in other business development executive roles at the company, she's helped expand Shire's reach and product roster a number of times.
Melincoff, who launched Shire's Strategic Investment Group in 2010, is modest about her accomplishments. She described technology licensing and acquisitions as "a team sport." But deals in which she has taken part have had tremendous impact for both companies and patient care. Among them: Shire snatched up Pervasis Therapeutics in April 2012 for $200 million, gaining access to Pervasis' cellular therapy that was in mid-stage development for vascular repair in patients on hemodialysis. And Shire's $521 million purchase of Berlin-based Jerini in 2008 added Jerini's promising orphan drug for hereditary angioedema (now known as Firazyr) to Shire's portfolio.
Shire made waves again with its $2.6 billion buyout of New River Pharmaceuticals in 2007, which added New River's ADHD drug Vyvanse to its profile. Vyvanse is a blockbuster for the company, and Melincoff helped make that deal happen, too. (Shire recently announced plans to buy the rare-disease specialist ViroPharma for about $4.2 billion, though Melincoff said she was not involved in the transaction.)
Melincoff, whose identical twin sister Wendy Johnson also works in the biotechnology industry, could have had a much different professional life. Twenty-five years ago, Melincoff was in graduate school at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, pursuing research as a cell biologist. While research can be rewarding, Melincoff realized she wanted something else.
"I didn't want to spend the rest of my life in the lab," she said. "You decide you want to grow and do other things."
Melincoff went on to handle project management and research administration and earned her M.S. in Management/Healthcare Administration from Penn State University. Technology assessment piqued her interest, which carried her into the biopharmaceutical business development side of things, on which she's happily focused ever since. She describes her job as identifying "companies, technologies, drugs and compounds that are strategically of interest to Shire." Once done, licensing deals, codevelopment agreements or investments in the companies soon follow.
One thing that Melincoff has learned: "Having a mentor who trusts you and empowers you" is both "really important" and "an amazing experience."
For Melincoff, that person was Andrew Reddick, who was COO at Adolor when Melincoff was vice president of business development there in the early 2000s. (Cubist Pharmaceuticals snatched up the small Pennsylvania biopharmaceutical company in 2011.)
"Mr. Reddick would never ask me to do something that he wouldn't do himself," Melincoff said. "We would meet with top senior executives of the top pharmaceutical companies because they all wanted to license our products, and he would say to them, 'Gwen is your contact. If you call me I will not take your call.' It is astounding that someone would say that to the head of business development from Pfizer, or Roche, or Glaxo."
She said that Reddick, who died of pancreatic cancer a few years ago, was "a unique and amazing man." Melincoff said she has tried to return the favor and mentor others, particularly at Shire.
"I am always available to help people," she said, "because people helped me."
Shire aims to win skeptical Europe over to ADHD drugs
Shire picks up Pervasis in potential $200M deal
Shire to buy Jerini in $521M deal
-- Mark Hollmer (email | Twitter)