Henri Termeer

Born: February 28, 1946NL
Died: May 12, 2017 | Marblehead, MA, US
Photograph of Henri Termeer

Henri Termeer begins his interview by discussing his parents’ histories, the influence of family, and his entrance into the business world. While writing his master’s thesis, he acquired his first job in systems engineering. Termeer describes his move into the medical and healthcare product business, holding various management positions at Baxter Travenol Laboratories Inc. (now Baxter International). While working for Baxter, Termeer was able to gain the experience necessary to head Genzyme in 1983, a then two-year old start-up biotechnology company, located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Under his leadership, Genzyme pioneered treatments for patients with rare genetic diseases. He recounts Genzyme’s experience with Gaucher disease and the developments of Ceredase® and then Cerezyme® and the lessons learned, and how Genzyme developed and distributed other innovative treatments to their patients. Under his leadership, Genzyme became a global biotech business, diversifying, through acquisitions across areas including LSDs, orthopedics, cancer, transplant and immune diseases, and diagnostic testing.

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0342
No. of pages: 68

Interview Sessions

Ted Everson, Jennifer Dionisio, Pei Koay and Arnold Thackray
23 May and 7 December 2006, 2 August 2007, 18 December 2008, and 30 September 2011
Genzyme Headquarters, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Abstract of Interview

Henri Termeer begins his interview by discussing his parents’ histories, the influence of family, and his entrance into the business world. He describes how, as a boy, he began to develop leadership skills as early as his Boy Scout years and built upon them in military service after high school. He also showed a strong interest in the business process and describes how he studied economics in university. While writing his master’s thesis, he acquired his first job in systems engineering. He recounts how he developed, implemented, and then managed the computerization of Norvic, a now defunct European shoe company. From shoes, Termeer describes his move into the medical and healthcare product business, holding various management positions at Baxter Travenol Laboratories Inc. (now Baxter International) in the United States and Europe, including executive vice president of Baxter’s Hyland Therapeutic Division and General Manager of Travenol GmbH in Germany.

While working for Baxter, Termeer was able to gain the experience necessary to head Genzyme in 1983, a then two-year old start-up biotechnology company, located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Under his leadership, Genzyme pioneered treatments for patients with rare genetic diseases. He recounts Genzyme’s experience with Gaucher disease and the developments of Ceredase® and then Cerezyme® and the lessons learned, and how Genzyme developed and distributed other innovative treatments to their patients. Under his leadership, Genzyme became a global biotech business, diversifying, through acquisitions across areas including LSDs (lysosomal storage disorders), orthopedics, cancer, transplant and immune diseases, and diagnostic testing.

Termeer found time to be involved in many bio-related organizations, including BIO and PhRMA, and to be involved in policy issues regarding drug development and healthcare, as well as be involved in a number of local community organizations in Boston. The interview concludes with Termeer’s comments on the Boston biotech community, the future of biotechnology more generally, personalized genomic medicine, the end of his tenure at Genzyme, current activities, and plans for the future.

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
Erasmus University Rotterdam Economics
1973 University of Virginia MBA

Professional Experience

Genzyme

1983 to 1985
President and Director of Genzyme Corporation
1985 to 1988
CEO, Genzyme Corporation
1988 to 2011
Chairman, Genzyme Corporation

Honors

Year(s) Award
1990 to 1992

Wall Street Transcript Gold Award

1991

Laguna Niguel Best of Biotech Award (for Genzyme)

1992

Merrill Lynch and Ernst & Young, Inc. "Entrepreneur of the Year"

1994

Laguna Niguel Best of Biotech Award (for Genzyme)

1995

Sucess Magazine "Renegade of the Year"

1995

Anti-Defamation League's New England Region's Torch of Liberty

1997

Hall of Fame Award (for Genzyme); Special Recognition for an Individual Award, Biotech Meeting at Laguna Niguel, Tenth Anniversary Celebration

1997

Cardinal Cushing School for Exceptional Children, "Humanitarian of the Year."

1997

Governor's New American Appreciation Award for his success as a foreign-born entrepreneur in America.

1999

Honoree o the Biomedical Science Careers Project's (BSCP's) Evening of Hope. 

1999

Golden Door award from the International Institute of Boston. 

1999

Fellow in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

1999

Genetic Disease Foundation Humanitarian Award

2001

Boston History Collaborative's 2001 "History Makers" Award in Biotechnology (accepted on behalf of Genzyme).

2003

Cor Vitae Award from the American Heart Association. 

2003

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Humanitarian Award from the March of Dimes. 

2005

Honorary Fellowship at the British Royal College of Physicians. 

2005

United States National Medal of Technology and Innovation (accepted on behalf of Genzyme).

2007

Ernst & Young's "Master Entrepreneur" Award

2008

Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF) and Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) Biotechnology Heritage Award.

2012

RARE Lifetime Achievement Award

Table of Contents

Family Foundation
1

Early life Tilburg, Netherlands. Background of mother and father. Early family life. Catholic upbringing.

Childhood and Military Service
3

Education. National service. Learning leadership. Playing chess. 

University and Early Business Experience
5

Studying economics. Moving to the UK. Managing the computerization of a shoe business in the early years of computers. Being recruited by American MBA programs. Arriving at the University of Virginia. Early married life on campus. 

Career at Baxter Travenol
10

Chicago and California years. Learning about healthcare and medical products. Managing Baxter, Germany. Glimpses into the business of rare diseases. Running Baxter Hyland’s R&D in California. Leaving Baxter and entering biotech. 

Genzyme: The Beginnings
19

The origins of Genzyme. Early Gaucher therapy trials. The first patient, Brian Berman. Ignoring the scientific advice. Gaining production and regulatory experience. Importance of manufacturing. IPO in 1986. Research and development partnerships and funding Gaucher research. Ceradase® trials. Impact of HIV. Processing placentas. Building a manufacturing plant at Allston. Global patient relations. Fabrazyme®. Merging IBA and ABC to form BIO. The regulatory environment and FDAMA.

Genzyme: Growing a Global Business
38

Seprafilm®. Diversification. Renagel® / Cholestagel®. Vertical integration. Failure of tolevamer. Thymoglobulin®. Campath®. Myozyme® and Pompe research. Fabrazyme. Genetic testing and diagnostics. 

Reflections
49

The future of medicine. Doing business globally. Reflecting on Genzyme’s success. Acquisitions. Boston biotech. 

Epilogue: After Genzyme

Impact of the financial crisis. Shutdown of Allston plant. Relations with the company’s stakeholders. The possibility of takeover. Discussions with Sanofi. Lessons learned. Personal life and current interests. 

About the Interviewer

Arnold Thackray

Arnold Thackray founded the Chemical Heritage Foundation and served the organization as president for 25 years. He is currently CHF’s chancellor. Thackray received MA and PhD degrees in history of science from Cambridge University. He has held appointments at Cambridge, Oxford University, and Harvard University, the Institute for Advanced Study, the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

In 1983 Thackray received the Dexter Award from the American Chemical Society for outstanding contributions to the history of chemistry. He served for more than a quarter century on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania, where he was the founding chairman of the Department of History and Sociology of Science and is currently the Joseph Priestley Professor Emeritus.

Ted Everson

Ted Everson, the director of clinical communications at Vital Issues in Medicine (VIM), a medical education company, earned a PhD in history and philosophy of science and technology from the University of Toronto and an MS in medical genetics from the University of British Columbia. During his tenure at CHF he founded the biotechnology program, which included focused scholarship on industry development. He is the author of The Gene: A Historical Perspective (2007), “Genetic Engineering Methods” in The Encyclopedia of Twentieth Century Technology (2004), and “Genetics and Molecular Biology” in History of the Exact Sciences and Mathematics (2002).

Jennifer Dionisio
Pei Koay