Stéphane Bancel, Former bioMérieux CEO, Talks Future of Startups, Diagnostics, Pharma

Xconomy Boston — 

Amid all the comings and goings and CEOs changing jobs in the past week—see Rick Reidy of Progress Software (NASDAQ: PRGS), Mara Aspinall of On-Q-ity, and others—one person flew under the radar in Boston.

He is Stéphane Bancel, and until last month he was the CEO of bioMérieux, the microbiology and diagnostics firm based in France. Don’t let the French accent (and fashion sense) fool you, though. Bancel is a Boston guy, he’s been in town since 2007, and he’s here to stay—which is a big deal for the biotech community.

Last week, for example, BG Medicine (NASDAQ: BGMD), a Waltham, MA-based diagnostics company, said it appointed Bancel executive chairman of its board of directors. Bancel also serves as chairman of Cambridge, MA-based Knome, a personal genomics startup co-founded by Harvard’s George Church, which raised some new money this week. (bioMérieux is an investor in Knome.) Bancel is also involved with Cambridge-based ModeRNA, a stealthy therapeutics startup backed by Flagship Ventures.

Bancel had been chief executive of bioMérieux since the beginning of 2007. The billion-dollar company, which has been around since 1963, specializes in molecular diagnostic systems for healthcare, food safety, and industrial applications—like detecting salmonella in food preparation areas or bacterial infections acquired in hospitals. The firm has about 1,500 workers in the U.S., including a small office in Cambridge’s Kendall Square.

“After five years I wanted to move to the startup world,” Bancel told me this week.

Beyond that, Bancel hasn’t said much specifically about his future plans. Bancel is the kind of guy who’s involved in dozens of far-flung projects, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he spent the next part of his career focused on a new startup at the intersection of diagnostics and pharmaceuticals. (He worked for drug giant Eli Lilly from 2000 to 2006.)

Last month, before he left bioMérieux, he sat down with me to talk about the future of diagnostics, and I got the sense that that’s where his heart is. Molecular diagnostics is evolving rapidly, he said, thanks to faster and cheaper genetic sequencing and analysis and new testing approaches. And it’s changing the whole business, he said.

As Bancel put it, diagnostics used to be (and to some extent still is) a “me too” business, full of commoditized offerings from many companies. It also used to require scale—a big testing platform to do lots of similar tests, employing lots of scientists and staff. But now diagnostics is moving “closer to a pharma business,” he said. What’s more, he thinks advances in diagnostics and life sciences … Next Page »

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44 responses to “Stéphane Bancel, Former bioMérieux CEO, Talks Future of Startups, Diagnostics, Pharma”

  1. Mark says:

    Bancel is a disaster. He is heading Moderna Therapeutics as CEO, where he consider employees as his servants. Biotechs does not succeed this way. He wants things happpen out of blue over night. He is out of touch from reality.
    He was forced out of BioMerieux after his peers could not put up with him.
    Please stop praising the people who does not know biotech. He has staffed Moderna with guys responsible for bringing down Tolerx (see thread at investor village

  2. Dan says:

    umm… this name is associated with some very scary reports at the read it yourself at

  3. steve says:

    Stephane was not pushed out but fired by Merieux family… due to his acts of going around and investing bioMerieux money in different biotech. Most of it was for personal gains for obtaining board memberships at various firms.

  4. Sharon says:

    Are these statements really accurate?

  5. Steve says:

    It has links to some very well known consumer web sites, e.g. Therefore, I assume some accuracy behind these statements.

  6. ash says:

    Moderna is full of nuts from top to bottom

  7. Benny says:

    ash, do you care to provide some examples?

  8. JT says:

    Yeh, Moderna is full of nuts, Nuts is not appropriate word for them. It is managed by a**holes. They would hire and fire. If you wanna get fired after few months for no fault, go join Moderna.

  9. sweet Tea says:

    Sounds fantastic!

  10. sweet Tea says:

    Yeah, data manipulators, opportunists, jerks, take advantage of employees what else… french screws

  11. sweet Tea says:

    Yeah, data manipulators, opportunists, jerks, take advantage of employees what else… french screws

  12. Apate says:

    Moderna is a perfect example of F-grade management. A complete and utter management failure: blame-game, falsified documentation, you name it. All their talent ran like wind to get away—that place is poison.

  13. sweet Tea says:

    worst, only talk blah blah, I had an interview at Moderna, I ran for shelter. It is a screwed people headed by screwed up managers.

  14. Alexa says:

    Moderna is a place where secretary believe she is a big boss…. CEO think he is a god of jerks… and CSO leads by ….you can guess whole picture of this corporation of nutz.

  15. Boopa says:

    A review from Glass door from a former employee.

    “An exhausting, demeaning, hurtful, and cruel place to work”


    in Cambridge, MA
    – Reviewed 3 weeks ago

    Pros – The location is in the heart of Cambridge’s
    biotech community so it’s easy to network with other people and
    companies and find a new job.

    Cons – Rampant favoritism followed by vilification.
    Executives take the credit for successes and place blame when failures
    happen. Employees are overworked and under resources with too much work
    to do in too little time-people have passed out at work from
    exhaustion. Employees are treated like chess pieces and then criticized
    for not knowing what’s going on or why. The company’s only about a
    year old with a very poor retention rate, lots of people are get fired
    and now a lot are resigning.

    Advice to Senior Management – Stop the secret
    management meetings following by ganging up on employees to bully them.
    Set realistic goals for the amount of work humans can complete in a
    given amount of time. Drop the take-it-or-leave it attitude you have
    with working with employees.

  16. Mashone says:

    This is all very disturbing.

  17. Paul says:

    I heard they have raised $30million in June

  18. Vanessa says:

    They are going after cool drug candidates

    • John says:

      I’m not sure what kind of person would call a drug candidate “cool.” Do you mean “promising”? Or “novel”? “Cool” is an adjective that teenagers use to describe shoes or Apple products…not clinical drugs intended to treat sick and dying patients. Hard to take a “cool” pipeline seriously.

      • Susie says:

        No it is “cool” This is the worst their CSO and CEO use. No guess the fate of the company where CSO and CEO use the word “cool” for a drug. It is a useless waste place on the planet.

      • Mill says:

        Moderna CEO and CSO describe it as a “cool” drugs pipeline. These drugs exists only in their dreams. You can imagine the knowledge of a company CEO and CSO who call drugs “cool.” Moderna is a waste.

    • Katie says:

      “cool” as in cool Marijuana? Moderna CSO and CEO must have consumed some “cool dugs.” :-)

  19. Emily says:

    I think the majority of that “30 million” came from friends of friends. Like how you spot your friends some cash when they are desperate. Goodluck!

    • Deb says:

      30 Mln for Moderna? Only super fools or hallucinated investors will do it, i.e. bet money on a garbage company with useless CSO and CEO.

  20. Susan says:

    I heard more than 50% of their staff was either fired or resigned. I also heard they spent almost all of that $30 million of their friends money on expensive consultants that they didn’t really need and high-paid executives. And the rest of that money went into experiments that gave results that don’t make sense and gave mixed results.

    • Deb says:

      You heard it right. The problem with Moderna is incapable CSO and CEO. CSO knows no science and cooks results. He likes to fire any one who is a threat to his existence, and may prove that he is most unqualified person. Moderna is a French gang where people are hired because of their origin and not qualifications. You must fit the culture of dumb scientists who knows no science.

  21. Mittens says:

    Methinks Moderna needs to go back into the “stealth”mode oven…its half-baked and not very well seasoned.

  22. mary says:

    But what if there was an entirely new drug modality to enable the body to produce its own healing proteins in vivo?