Richard Brewer, Former Scios CEO and Dendreon Chairman, Dies at 61

[Updated: 12:55 pm PT] Richard Brewer, the veteran biotech executive who served as CEO of Sunnyvale, CA-based Scios and chairman of Seattle-based Dendreon (NASDAQ: DNDN), has died from multiple myeloma. He was 61.

Most recently, Brewer had been serving as CEO of Salt Lake City, UT-based Myrexis (NASDAQ: MYRX), a company seeking to in-license drug candidates for development. He started in that job in May.

Brewer started his 35-year career in biotech in 1984 at South San Francisco-based Genentech, where he worked his way up to senior vice president of U.S. marketing and senior vice president of Genentech Europe and Canada. Later as the president and CEO of Scios, he oversaw the development and marketing of nesiritide (Natrecor), as a new treatment for acute heart failure. That company ended up being acquired in 2003 by Johnson & Johnson for $2.4 billion. J&J later pleaded guilty in 2011 to a misdemeanor violation of federal law for promoting the drug for uses that weren’t approved by the FDA.

After selling Scios, Brewer became the chairman in 2004 of Dendreon, the developer of sipuleucel-T (Provenge) for advanced prostate cancer. Brewer stepped down as chairman of Dendreon in January, although he remained on the board as a director. During his watch, the company won FDA approval of the first-of-its-kind cancer immunotherapy.

“Dick was a one-of-a-kind trailblazer and visionary who made an indelible mark on the biotech industry and on the lives of the many colleagues he inspired and influenced, family and friends he loved and enjoyed, and patients who benefited from his risk-taking work and advocacy,” said David Gryska, chief operating officer of Myrexis, in a statement.

[Added comment] “Dick Brewer was an esteemed fellow director and an important leader in the biotechnology industry,” said John Johnson, Dendreon’s chairman and CEO, in an emailed statement. “He served Dendreon well as chairman and a director for over eight years as the company navigated an important course. His wisdom, guidance and dedication have left an indelible and positive mark on all who knew him. Our condolences and thoughts go out to his family.”

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