[Updated: 1 pm, 11/26/11] Vertex Pharmaceuticals was a pretty audacious place, even by biotech standards, when it was founded twenty years ago. It started when a senior chemist from Merck, Joshua Boger, quit that job and assembled a small band of chemists that aimed to beat the Big Pharma companies at their own game of making small-molecule drugs.
That grand ambition still hasn’t been fulfilled, but Vertex has certainly come a long way. Boger handed over the reins last year to a new CEO whose mission is to to transform Vertex into a big, stable, profitable anchor for biotech in Boston for years to come. Vertex (NASDAQ: VRTX) now has more than 1,100 employees in Massachusetts and 1,400 worldwide, a stock market capitalization of almost $8 billion, and a hepatitis C drug in the final phase of clinical trials that could become the elusive billion-dollar molecule. (The quest for such a drug was famously described in a 1994 book.)
While the early days of swagger, clashing egos, and intense late night lab sessions are in the past, quite a few people shaped by that experience have spread through Boston biotech. Many are still pursuing their own big dreams.
“Vertex attracted people who liked fresh ideas, and high-profile situations, and that weren’t afraid of risk,” says Roger Tung, an early chemist at Vertex who is now CEO of Lexington, MA-based Concert Pharmaceuticals.
Now as Vertex graduates from its development phase into a more mature, integrated commercial enterprise, it is also starting to take on some sure signs of age and experience. One of those is a growing network of alumni, like Tung, who gained valuable experience they took with them. I sought to track down many of them to get a better sense of the impact the Vertex network is having today.
The list includes 35 names at last count, and I expect it to grow over time. Thanks to Tung, Aldrich of RA Capital, Justine Koenigsberg of Concert Pharmaceuticals, and Kathryn Morris of The Yates Network for their help getting the ball rolling.
Now I’d like to ask you for some help. If you see any information below that’s out of date or incorrect, please let me know and I’ll fix it. If you are an alumnus yourself and would like to be added to the list, please send me a note or leave a comment at the bottom of the story. If you have any other questions, comments, or new information, ping me at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rich Aldrich, co-founder RA Capital Management, chairman of the board, Concert Pharmaceuticals
Eva-Lotta Allan, chief business officer, Ablynx
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