Biotech Pioneer Phillip Sharp Retires from Biogen Idec Board

7/16/09

Phillip Sharp, the MIT biologist and geneticist who co-founded Biogen Idec (NASDAQ:BIIB) in 1978, has retired from the biotech powerhouse’s board of directors, according to a company statement issued this morning.

Sharp, 65, has served as a director of Biogen since 1982. During his tenure on the Cambridge, MA-based company’s board, Biogen has evolved from a research and development shop to an international company with more than $4 billion in annual revenue and one of the largest franchises for multiple sclerosis drugs in the world.

Sharp’s unexpected retirement follows a shakeup on the board last month when two new directors—Alex Denner and Richard Mulligan—were elected from a slate endorsed by activist investor Carl Icahn. It’s unclear how Sharp’s departure from the board will impact the balance of power at Biogen, as the company’s top brass has been at odds with Icahn over the billionaire investor’s vocal criticisms of management and his past efforts to push for a sale of the company. Icahn’s past actions also indicate that he would like to gain greater influence on the board of directors. Sharp had not responded to an e-mail query about his decision by the time we posted this article.

Sharp won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1993 for his co-discovery of gene splicing, and he garnered the prestigious National Medal of Science in 2004. A luminary in the fields of cancer biology and genetics, he also holds the prestigious title of Institute Professor at MIT. He is also an Xconomist.

“Dr. Sharp has been a pioneering force in this company and this industry for more than three decades, contributing enormously to both our scientific and business achievements,” said Bruce R. Ross, chairman of Biogen, in a statement. “His work in the laboratory has led to major medical advances, and his business judgment in the boardroom has helped foster the growth of one of the world’s most successful biotechnology companies.”

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