A poster child for the biotech boom
Name: Hans Bishop
Title: President and CEO
A little more than a year ago, Juno Therapeutics ($JUNO) was a gleam in the eye of some world-renowned cancer researchers, a nascent biotech with hopes of following through on some dramatic but very early clinical data. About 14 months later, under the stewardship of CEO Hans Bishop, the company commands a market value of about $4.3 billion and has blossomed into a poster child of the biotech boom.
Juno, a 2014 Fierce 15 honoree, is a leader among companies developing treatments that promise to change the standard of care for blood cancers. The biotech's candidates are CAR-T immunotherapies, made through a process in which scientists remove T cells from a patient's blood and equip them with targeting mechanisms called chimeric antigen receptors (CARs), which seek out and bind to proteins expressed by cancer cells. The resulting cells are reinjected into the patient, at which point they track down malignancies and attack them as they would any commonplace infection.
Bishop came to the company from Dendreon, a Seattle biotech that once portended to change the face of cancer treatment with a therapy derived from patients' own cells. Things gradually came apart for the company, where Bishop served as chief operating officer, as its banner asset failed to live up to lofty sales expectations and Dendreon got swallowed by debt. Given the chance to retrace those steps, Bishop has said he believes Juno can stand on Dendreon's shoulders without making its mistakes. And while it's hardly the only company in the CAR-T space, since its inception, the startup has taken a novel approach to doing business in biotech.
Juno emerged from The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in late 2013, but instead of inking a standard license agreement with its scientific founders, it granted each millions of shares. Thus, when the company pulled off a high-flying IPO in December, the institutions suddenly had assets worth more than $500 million combined. And the biotech took an uncommon path in raising funds along the way, largely avoiding traditional biotech backers and looking instead to the State of Alaska, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and some undisclosed public funds for most of its cash.
Each of those decisions served a larger purpose for Juno, Bishop has said, as the biotech is looking to build a long-haul powerhouse of innovation. The company has an ambitious plan to get 10 therapies into clinical trials in 2015, investing in its own manufacturing along the way in hopes of going it alone to market with potentially revolutionary products.
"We believe that we're right at the beginning of a brand-new industry," Bishop told FierceBiotech last year.
The rest of the world would seem to agree, as the promise of Juno's technology has taken it from the whiteboard to Wall Street in record time. Before grossing about $345 million in its IPO, the company had raised more than $300 million in investments over about a year. And, with Bishop at the helm, Juno expects to create even more value as it presses toward the market.
-- Damian Garde (email | Twitter)
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