By Rob Wright, Chief Editor, Life Science Leader
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Last year BioMarin Pharmaceutical was ranked as one of the most innovative companies in the world. But longtime employees of the ultra-rare disease drug developer know that the company’s future didn’t always look so bright. In fact, when Jean-Jacques (J.J.) Bienaimé arrived in May 2005, things looked downright bleak. “A proxy fight had been organized by some of the shareholders who were trying to put in their own slate of directors,” says the chairman and CEO. “The company had lost about $200 million the previous year, the stock (NASDAQ: BMRN) was trading in the $5 range, and employee turnover was around 25 percent.” Many of his friends thought he had lost his mind when he took the job. After all, in the week prior, Bienaimé had finalized selling Genencor (a biotechnology company focused on industrial biotherapeutics) to Danisco for $1.2 billion. Following such success, why would anyone want to take charge of a “fixer-upper” like BioMarin? Bienaimé, though, was more optimistic. “I thought they had some good assets and people, and it just needed to be refocused and remanaged,” he recalls.