The moving boxes are stacked in the hallways of San Diego’s Seragon Pharmaceuticals, and that means the end is near for CEO Rich Heyman.
He’s fine with that. As Heyman put it, “I’m not going to go operational any time soon.”
After selling Seragon to Genentech, the South San Francisco-based unit of Roche, last July in a deal valued at more than $1.7 billion, Heyman has been overseeing the shutdown of Seragon’s operations in San Diego’s suburban Del Mar Heights. “We’ve done everything we said we were going to do,” Heyman said one recent morning in Seragon’s third-floor conference room. “It’s still a little bittersweet.”
As I reported last summer, Heyman is the guy who made lightning strike twice in the same place. Before selling Seragon, he was the founding CEO of its predecessor company, Aragon Pharmaceuticals, which was acquired by Johnson and Johnson for $1 billion in 2013. Heyman, an expert in endocrinology and hormone signaling, said it was clear from the beginning that if his team could find a way to successfully block the androgen-related receptors in hormone-driven prostate cancer, they could also find a similar way to block hormone-driven breast cancer.
As part of the deal with Genentech, Heyman agreed to oversee the transition, which included the transfer of key biological, clinical, and regulatory assets from San Diego to South San Francisco. Genentech got Seragon’s entire portfolio of potential oral drug compounds, known as selective estrogen receptor degraders (SERDs).
But now Seragon has to vacate its offices before the end of the month. After that, Heyman will be out of a job.
After announcing the deal with Genentech last summer, Heyman said, “Almost immediately, people started calling to ask, ‘Do you want to join a new company? Do you want a board seat? Do you want to be a venture partner?’”
He sought the counsel of four friends with similar experience: Carol Gallagher sold Seattle-based Calistoga Pharmaceuticals in 2011; Bob Baltera sold San Diego’s Amira Pharmaceuticals that same year; Tony Coles sold Onyx Pharmaceuticals in 2013; and Faheem Hasnain, a biotech veteran and board member at both Aragon and Seragon.
Heyman said he asked them, “Did you take time off? What did you think about?”
Gallagher, Baltera, and Coles all took substantial time off, and that’s what Heyman wants to do too.
Heyman says he loves science, and he wants to maintain that perspective as he contemplates his next move. As a result, he has joined the boards at the UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center and the Salk Institute, where he once worked with Ron Evans to identify hormone receptors.
“I want the quality time to think about what I want to do next,” Heyman said. “We all run so hard and so fast that we often don’t have the time to think deeply, or have a little reflectance.”