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

8/4/11Follow @gthuang

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 »

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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  • Mark

    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 http://www.investorvillage.com/mbthread.asp?mb=569&nhValue=28897&nmValue=28937&dValue=1&tid=11097199&showall=1)

  • John
  • Dan

    umm… this name is associated with some very scary reports at the Ripoffreports.com. read it yourself at http://www.ripoffreport.com/civil-rights-violators/biomerieux/biomerieux-threats-against-m-f4228.htm

  • steve

    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.

    • pony

      What do you expect from a french screw?

  • Sharon

    Are these statements really accurate?

  • Steve

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

  • Pingback: Stephane Bancel, former bioMerieux CEO, Talks Future of Startups, Diagnostics, Pharma | Moderna

  • ash

    Moderna is full of nuts from top to bottom

  • Benny

    ash, do you care to provide some examples?

    • ash

      you

  • JT

    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.

  • sweet Tea

    Sounds fantastic!

  • sweet Tea

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

  • sweet Tea

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

  • Apate

    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.

  • sweet Tea

    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.

  • Alexa

    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.

  • Boopa

    A review from Glass door from a former employee.

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

    Former
    Employee

    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.

  • Mashone

    This is all very disturbing.

  • Aspate
  • Paul

    I heard they have raised $30million in June

    • Louis

      Sounds made up, like their data.

      • Deb

        They are perfect at cooking data and stories. It is worst place on the planet

  • Vanessa

    They are going after cool drug candidates

    • John

      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

        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

        John,
        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

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

  • Emily

    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

      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.

  • Susan

    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

      Susan,
      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.

  • Mittens

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

  • Aspate
  • mary

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

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