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The Genetics Institute Alumni: Where Are They Now?

[Updated: 11:50 am, 8/27/12] Genetics Institute stopped making biotech headlines a long time ago. But almost 15 years after it was acquired, this high-flier from the industry’s first big wave in the 1980s is still having a ripple effect on the Boston biotech scene. It was one of the key companies that recruited, inspired, and mentored a generation of young scientists and business people in Boston.

GI, as it is known, was founded in 1980 by a couple of scientists from Harvard University, Mark Ptashne and Tom Maniatis, and got going as a business the next year with the addition of Gabriel Schmergel, a former Baxter Healthcare executive, as CEO. The company developed a reputation for first-rate science along with Genentech, another industry pioneer. It grew to 600 employees and a $1 billion market valuation by 1991, before its devastating loss in a patent lawsuit with Amgen. Rather than resort to mass layoffs, GI sold a majority ownership stake to Wyeth in 1992, and was then taken over completely in December 1996. At the end of its independence, 1,200 people worked at Genetics Institute.

Many of the people who now lead emerging biotech companies in Boston—Tuan Ha-Ngoc of Aveo Pharmaceuticals, Adelene Perkins of Infinity Pharmaceuticals, and John Knopf of Acceleron Pharma, to name a few—got their start at Genetics Institute. They still rave about what an amazing experience it was, and how the things they learned there influence them today in how they run their companies.

“This is something I’m particularly proud of,” says Schmergel, reached at his home in Florida. “A whole bunch of people have spun out of there. Some have done incredibly well. And this is a tough business.”

Schmergel—an investor in Xconomy, it must be noted—says Ptashne and Maniatis deserve the credit for establishing a culture that valued top-notch science. But even though he sometimes struggled to understand all of the science himself, he made sure that everybody in the company, not just scientists, respected it. “I used to tell our business guys that you don’t have to be a scientist in biotech, but you better be science-friendly and learn as much as you can because it’s the basis of the company,” Schmergel says.

To get a sense of where the Genetics Institute family tree extends today, I’ve sought to put together a directory with links to help GI alumni connect and re-connect. I want this list to include not just mover-shaker types, but also the rank-and-file who have moved on to other places since the Wyeth takeover in December 1996. The list includes 270 names at last count, and I expect it to grow over time. I owe thanks for help with this project to Schmergel, Infinity’s Perkins, Gina Nugent of The Yates Network, and three guys from Acceleron Pharma—Bob Steininger, Matt Sherman, and Jack Morgan.

Now here’s the part where you can 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 have any questions, comments, or new information, please send me a note at ltimmerman@xconomy.com or editors@xconomy.com.

Over time, I hope this story can become a richer and more valuable resource for Genetics Institute alumni. Here’s the list I’ve put together in alphabetical order, with the most updated titles and affiliations I found online.

Joan Abrams, biotechnology teacher, Cambridge Public Schools

Kate Adams, vice president of diagnostics marketing, HistoRx

Robert Adamson, retired, former vice president, Pfizer

Tim Ahern, science and regulatory consultant, Acceleron Pharma

Leslie Alessandri, scientist, Abbott Bioresearch Center [Added: 10:40 am, 5/20/10]

Dean Alger, senior director, regulatory affairs, Genzyme. Retiring in May. [Added: 10:05 am, 3/23/10]

Jayne Allard, US Benefits & Retirement Specialist at Lonza [Added: 5:30 pm, 10/28/11]

Joel Alvarez, associate director, global regulatory operations, Shire Human Genetic Therapies

Juan Alvarez, senior director, discovery research and biologics, Alkermes [Added: 9:45 pm, 3/22/10]

John Amari, associate director, Syntonix Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of Biogen Idec [Added: 12:05 am, 4/2/10]

Godfrey Amphlett, executive director, process and product development, ImmunoGen [Added: 12:05 am, 4/2/10]

Kim Archer, project manager, Novartis Institutes for Biological Research … Next Page »

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  • http://www.xconomy.com/author/ltimmerman/ Luke Timmerman

    Thanks to many of you for writing kind notes to me today. It’s always a good way to start the week.

    I’ve also added six names of GI alumni thanks to your help. I’m listing their names below, but they are also incorporated in the alphabetical directory above. Keep ’em coming.

    Clive Wood
    Juan Alvarez
    Jennifer Snyder Goldman
    Sharan Pagano
    Jill Goddard
    Charles Shoemaker

  • William Lonergan

    Hi Luke:

    I came across your article and would like to add my name to your list. I was the head of Corporate Security at Genetics Institute from 4/1988 through 9/1997. Currently I am a security consultant, and owner of Lighthouse Security Consulting, Inc. I have several bio-tech clients.

    You’ve done a nice job here.

  • http://www.xconomy.com/author/ltimmerman/ Luke Timmerman

    William–I was in the middle of updating this story when you wrote, so I added you right away. Thanks for letting me know.–Luke

  • Praveena Raman

    Hi Luke,

    I came across your article through Linkedin and enjoyed seeing the list. I would like to add my name to the list. I worked as an Information Specialist at Genetics Institute from 1984-1988. Currently I work at Elan Pharmaceuticals in South San Francisco as a Senior Information Specialist.

    Thank you for creating this nice historic document.

  • JoAnn Witek

    Hi,

    I was at GI from the very beginning, summer of 1981 until 2004.

    I am currently Sr Scientist and Director, Cell Biology at HydraBiosciences.

    Nice job. Great to know where everyone is.

    JoAnn Witek

  • Vicki Rosen

    Great summary of GI.
    Please add my name and current location.

    Vicki Rosen, Professor and Chair
    Developmental Biology
    Harvard University School of Dental Medicine

    Thanks,
    Vicki

  • http://periozkeracupuncture.com Peri Ozker

    Hi–thanks for gathering this list, what fun!
    Please add my name and descriptors to listing
    with my thanks.

    Peri Ozker, Lic. Acupuncturist and Owner
    Peri Ozker Acupuncture (Newton and Andover MA)

  • http://www.xconomy.com/author/ltimmerman/ Luke Timmerman

    Praveena, JoAnn, Vicki and Peri—-thanks very much for letting me know about where you’ve gone. I’ve added all of your names to the list, and a few more who wrote to me directly.

    For others who would like to be added to the list, I have a request. When you leave a comment here, say your title and affiliation, as well as the years you worked at GI back in the days prior to December 1996. And if you can paste a hyperlink to help people find you online here in the comment section, that would be great. That will save me some time hunting around for how to find you.

    Thanks,

    Luke

  • http://www.menopausealliance.org Mary Beth Woodin

    Thanks for your work on this list. I am president of Menopause Alliance (www.menopausealliance.org)and MBK Associates and worked at GI from 1992-94.
    Mary Beth

  • http://www.linkedin.com/myprofile?trk=hb_tab_pro Susan Rogers

    Thanks for your work on this list. I worked at GI from 1993-1996.

    Pharma, IT Project Management Consultant and Certified Business Coach.

    For those of you who don’t know, Dale Blank is also a fine art photographer. Her work can be found here: http://www.daleblank.com.

    And for those interested, she has a show opening in Newburyport from April 1-14.

    Here’s that link: http://www.newburyportart.org/Archive/2010/FeaturedArtist/blank.html

  • http://www.madash.com Eyal S. Ron

    Great list and investigative work to find so many ex-GI people. Please add me to the list. For the last 12 years I am running the consulting firm MADASH, LLC. (www.MADASH.com)

    Thanks

    Eyal

  • Bernardo Perez-Ramir

    Hello Luke

    Thank you for putting together the list.
    I joined GI before it was bought by AHP in 1996 until 2004.
    I am with Genzyme Corporation now
    all the best
    Bernardo Perez-Ramirez, Ph.D.
    Senior Scientific Director
    BioFormulations Development
    Genzyme corporation, Framingham MA 01701

  • Bruce Leicher

    Nice story and thanks to Gabe for inspiring it.

    Bruce

  • http://www.vaccinex.com Troy Richards

    Luke,

    Many thanks for putting the time and effort into this project. The names on the list bring back many fond memories of the good old days. I was at GI from 1988 – 1996 and then to 2005 as Wyeth.

    Troy Richards
    CMC Project Manager
    Vaccinex, Inc.
    Rochester, NY

  • http://www.xconomy.com/author/ltimmerman/ Luke Timmerman

    Here’s a great comment I just got from Pam Szklut, one of the early scientists at Genetics Institute. She agreed to let me post it here as a comment. If anybody else has a great memory they’d like to share, you’re welcome to do so here on your own. Here’s the note from Pam:

    “I joined GI in 1983 to start a monoclonal antibody group – though in those days everyone wore many hats. I feel fortunate to have been part of GI. I remember Gabe coming through the labs. One day, he asked if I was happy and I started to explain what I was doing. He said, “but I want to know if you’re happy.” It was that kind of place! I’ve stayed on so I’ve been a Wyeth employee and now Pfizer.”
    Pam

  • Mary Switzer

    I started at GI in 1987 and have been there through the Wyeth years and now I am still with Pfizer. 23 years in June. Hard to belive. A lot of people are retiring now. Some very sad moments with the retirement of Bob Adamson and Jeff Deetz. Have stayed all these years because of the wonderful people I have had and continue to have the privledge of working with. Very nice to see where people are now.

    Mary Switzer
    Senior Research Scientist II
    Pfizer

  • Stan Daley

    I started in 1992 and have retired in 2008 10 years in Andover Manufacturing FIX IV, really missed the GI Days.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/pub/david-miller/3/6ab/502 David Miller

    Very nice to see.
    Please add me:
    David Miller
    1983 – 1988
    currently Senior Director, Business Development at Dicerna Pharmaceuticals

  • Kristin Murray

    Hi Luke,

    What a walk down memory lane. I joined GI in July 1990. Please add my current information:
    Kristin Murray
    Senior Manager GCMC Regulatory
    Pfizer
    Andover MA 01810

  • Derick Gates

    Luke,

    I joined GI in March, 1987, to start up the Regulatory Affairs department. I stayed with Wyeth through the recent Pfizer acquisition, and am now Senior Director of Global CMC for Pfizer at the Andover site. I have great memories of the GI days – good people, wonderful times.

  • Cheryl Riel

    Nice job.

    I started at GI in 1995 through Nov 2001. What a great experience.

    Current info:
    Cheryl Riel
    Sr. Manager, Nonclinical Writing
    Millennium: The Takeda Oncology Company

  • Bob Kitchen

    Wow, great to see all those names from the past. I started at GI in 1989 an am still with the company (Pfizer now of course)

    Bob Kitchen
    Principle Research Scientist I
    Analytical Research and Development

  • Kathy Reckendorf

    How wonderful to read about so many GI people. It was an incredible company. I was at GI/Wyeth from 1992 to 2007.

    I am now a Senior Documentation Associate at Millennium: The Takeda Oncology Company.

  • Bruce Tangarone

    Thanks for the interesting article. I started at GI in 1988 and am still with the company (Pfizer now of course)

    Bruce Tangarone
    Principle Research Scientist I
    Analytical Research and Development

  • Bill Fleming

    Wow, awesome to see so many familiar names!!

    You can add me to the list, I started at Genetics back in 1990, and for now I am still here ;-)

    Bill Fleming
    IT Sr. Engineer
    Regional Client Computing
    Pfizer

  • Rick Williams

    I started with Genetics Institute on April 21, 1987. I will retire on April 30, 2010. It has been a very rewarding 23 years. Thank you GI!

    Rick Williams
    Senior Project Manager
    Process Transfer and Manufacturing
    Pharm Sci R & D
    Pfizer

  • Tom O’Brien

    Luke,

    Thank you for writing this article. It’s great to see so many names from GI. I joined GI in 1993 in Quality Control. I am still here nearly seventeen years later. Please add my current info. Thank you.

    Tom O’Brien
    Associate Director QA
    Pfizer

  • Mary Simchik

    It’s great to see greetings of so many old friends and colleagues. hi Everyone!!

    Please add my name to the list:
    Mary simchik, Sr. EH&S Spec II, Pfizer

  • Klaus Dahl

    Joined engineering group in 1990. Retired in 2008.

  • Armen Nahabedian

    Dear Luke,

    A colleague e-mailed me the article. I started in 1984. When we were independent, the passion and engergy was unbelievable. The gift of youth and great leadership helped make it a great place to learn and grow. I am with Pfizer now having so far “survived” take overs. I am currently a Director in the Pfizer Global Engineering organization.

    Regards,

    Armen

  • Chuck Cifuni

    HI All,

    What a great article.
    For those of you who remember me, I’m alive and well at Pfizer. I blieve I am the GI employee with the longest continuous service from GI to Pfizer (I started in July 1981). I am happy to see that the spirit of GI continues to live on in so many alumni minds.

    All the best,

    Chuck Cifuni
    Senior Project Manager
    Process Transfer and Manufacturing
    Pharm Sci R & D
    Pfizer

  • Neil Steinmeyer

    I started at GI in 1993 and am still with the company. I continue to enjoy working with the great people and scientist here at Pfizer.

    Neil Steinmeyer
    Senior Research Scientist II
    Analytical Research and Development

  • Jeff Robinson

    A great list to read for all former GIers. If the list is still being compiled feel free to add my name. I put in 10+ years from 91 until 2002. Great people and great science!

    Jeff Robinson
    Head of Downstream MSAT,
    Lonza New England Organization

  • http://www.xconomy.com/author/ltimmerman/ Luke Timmerman

    Thanks to everybody for all the great comments. I’m really happy how this story resonated with so many people—which is no easy thing in the fast-paced world of online news. This story had just 150 names when I first published it on March 22, and it has now grown to 211 at last count. Your response is encouraging me to do more stories like this one!

    If you have other ideas of interesting companies and people that would be good to write about, I’m all ears.

    Luke

  • http://umaryland.edu Kathleen Byington

    It’s great to read the comments from so many who I remember with great respect. I was the director for financial planning when I left in 1999 after 7 years with Genetics Institute and Wyeth. I am currently the VP for administration and finance at the University of Maryland Baltimore, home to Maryland’s medical, dental, pharmacy, nursing, social work and law schools.

  • Terri Phaneuf

    It’s great to see so many familiar names! I started with Genetics in 1992 and am still here under Pfizer.

    Terri Phaneuf
    Lead Investigator IV
    APO Compliance

  • Julie (Manousos) Petros

    I worked at GI/Wyeth from 1992 to 2002. It was a wonderful place to work!

    Julie Petros
    ABA Special Education Assistant
    Town of Andover, MA

  • Tina Hurley (Pongratz)

    Hi Luke,

    I was a GI employee from 1987 through 1997 working in the Andover facility when it first opened (and for GI/Wyeth from 2001 to 2010).

    Please add me to your list.

    Thank you,
    -Tina Hurley
    Director, Product Development
    Biogen Idec Hemophilia

  • http://www.xconomy.com/author/ltimmerman/ Luke Timmerman

    Thanks, Tina, you’re now on the list.

  • Lauri Sweeney (Phelps)

    This is a great article – so nice to see familiar names. Gi was a great place to work – miss working there! I worked at GI from 1995-2000. Please add me to you list.

  • Jackie Millinor

    A blast from the past and so wonderful to see so many names of people who had such impact on my life.

    I was fortunate enough to be employed at GI from 1985 to 1998 and have never found quite the same atmosphere, culture, and camaraderie anywhere else.

    I’ve run into other GI’ers over the years since I left…. it truly is a small world.

    Luke, please add me to the list! Thank you.

    Jackie Millinor
    Executive Coordinator
    Cubist Pharmaceuticals

  • Holly White Schmidt

    Wow, Luke. So great to see where all these familiar names are today. Thanks for the memories! I was at GI from 1990 to 2001. Would you please add me to your list?

    Thank you,
    Holly White Schmidt
    Scientist,
    Discovery Protein Sciences
    Adnexus

  • Dwight Winters

    Great to see all the names from the past. I was there from 1987 -1994. It was a great place to launch a career.

    Dwight Winters
    Sr. Scientist Amgen Inc.
    Thousand Oaks- CA

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/lorifitz Lori Fitz

    Hi Luke,
    This is a great response and the list keeps growing. I started at GI as a Research Associate in Hematopoiesis. I’m still there, currently Pfizer, as a Principal Research Scientist, Inflammation and Immunology.

    Lori Fitz

  • Elliott Nickbarg

    Luke,

    Nice article. Please add me to the list–I was at GI in Cambridge from 1990 to 2001

    Thanks!
    Elliott Nickbarg

    Sr. Principal Scientist
    Merck Research Labs
    Cambridge MA

  • Andy Long

    Hi Luke,
    Nice to see these familiar names. I was at GI from 1991 until 2006 (Wyeth). Please add me to the list. I am currently a Senior Scientist III, Immunoscience Pharmacology, Abbott Laboratories.

    Thanks,

    Andy

  • http://www.xconomy.com/author/ltimmerman/ Luke Timmerman

    Andy—you’ve been added, and I think I’ve got everybody else who’s written in added to the list as well. Thanks for reading–Luke

  • Ed LaVallie

    Hi Luke,
    As you’ve documented so nicely here, GI was a very special place and I’m fortunate and proud to have worked with so many dedicated and talented people. I joined GI in the summer of 1982 when the company was located in the old “Boston Lying-In” Hospital on Longwood Ave. in Boston. Through changes in locations and ownership(now Pfizer), I’m still here, currently Associate Director, Global Biotherapeutic Technologies, Pfizer.

    Thanks for doing this!
    Ed LaVallie

  • Scott Brown

    Add me

    Scott Brown
    Vive President, General Counsel
    Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research

  • http://drugscientist.com Mary Lynn Baniecki

    Hi-
    I was at GI from 1996-1998. Add me to the list.

    Thanks!