The master collaborator defies the skeptics
Name: John Maraganore
Title: CEO, Alnylam
RNAi has long had a champion in John Maraganore, the CEO of Alnylam ($ALNY). When the nascent field was first gaining attention, he used the limelight to build his company into a leading player. And when the lights dimmed as some of the most prominent players pulled out, shaking their heads at the long development timelines and unresolved issues surrounding some nagging questions about the technology, Maraganore kept the faith.
So it seemed fitting at J.P. Morgan a few weeks ago to see Maraganore back in the spotlight, embracing Sanofi's ($SNY) $700 million investment in their partnership while ushering Merck ($MRK) out of the arena by taking Sirna off its hands at the knockdown price of $175 million in cash and stock.
In classic form, Maraganore didn't just use the high-profile events to focus on the company. He concentrated on the science as well, which is gradually reaching the point of producing meaningful data on prospective products. The tie-up between Cambridge, MA-based Alnylam and the nearby Genzyme, a subsidiary of Sanofi, also helped highlight the growing role that the hub plays in global drug R&D. And it builds on a model Sanofi has learned to prefer; looking to outside disruptive technology to provide the kind of innovation it needs to deliver important new products. Case in point: the highly successful collaboration between Sanofi and Regeneron ($REGN).
The highly charged Maraganore is a relentless cheerleader, never willing to concede an inch to the critics. He's taken a few hits along the way, facing off against the doubters. But he's brought his company through challenging times, influencing a significant sector in R&D while taking advantage of the big shifts in Big Pharma's struggle to reinvent itself in a brave new world. And he's gained some die-hard fans in the investment community in the process.
Alnylam's stock is up 245% over the past year.
Maraganore and Alnylam face plenty of hurdles ahead. But in the uncertain world of biotechnology, the CEO has proven to be the kind of inside player who also knows how to manage the league. He's also helping to build a model of biotech-pharma R&D collaboration that promises to be highly influential in the industry.
-- John Carroll (email | Twitter)
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