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