So Much For Gardening: Bruce Carter Joins Vaccine Startup Immune Design To Raise Cash

11/23/09Follow @xconomy

One of Seattle’s leading life sciences entrepreneurs, Bruce Carter, is back in the saddle. Carter has agreed to take an active management role as executive chairman of Seattle-based Immune Design, a year after he announced he was retiring as CEO of ZymoGenetics (NASDAQ: ZGEN).

Carter has agreed to work about three days a week at the startup vaccine developer as executive chairman, while co-founder Steve Reed will stay as full-time CEO. Carter’s top three goals are to bring in “money, money, and more money,” he says, by tapping his global network of investment and pharma industry contacts who might be interested in what Immune Design has started, he says.

“I got seduced by the science and the idea of learning something new,” Carter says. He added: “I was a little afraid I’d get bored.”

The addition of Carter is just the latest in a string of big names who have aligned themselves with Immune Design. The company got started in June 2008 with an $18 million venture financing led by Rick Klausner of The Column Group, Ed Penhoet of Alta Partners, and Brian Atwood of Versant Ventures. They bet on technology from the Caltech lab of David Baltimore and Reed’s team at the Infectious Disease Research Institute in Seattle. The vision is to create the first generation of vaccines that can be designed to stimulate specific cell types needed to prevent an illness, fight off an existing infection, or possibly even kill tough cancer cells.

As many people in Seattle biotech know, Carter is one of the big personalities of the local cluster. He is the British-born microbiologist who is essentially the founder of the modern version of ZymoGenetics. He first joined the company in 1986, and later oversaw the operation when he became chief scientific officer of Novo Nordisk, which acquired Zymo in 1988. He led ZymoGenetics’ transformation from a U.S. research wing of Novo into a standalone private company in 2000, and then took Zymo public in 2002. He retired on Jan. 1 of this year.

Bruce Carter

Bruce Carter

Since then, Carter has stayed busy through serving as chairman of ZymoGenetics; as a director of India-based Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, a generic drugmaker; and of the nonprofit TB Alliance. At first, he wasn’t really that interested in joining the board of Immune Design.

“I got a call from the chairman of the board, Ed Penhoet, and he asked me, ‘How are you enjoying your retirement?” Carter says. “I told him, ‘I’m really enjoying it, I haven’t been bored a single day.’”

Even so, Carter agreed to listen to Penhoet’s proposal about Immune Design. The two have known each other for more than two decades dating back to when Carter was at Novo and Penhoet was one of the biotech industry’s pioneers at Chiron. Carter says he was impressed by the group of people who have coalesced around the new company. “There were some heavy hitters involved,” Carter says.

But vaccines were out of Carter’s comfort zone, so he has had to learn some new things.

Carter says he plans to concentrate on external partnership talks and fundraising for Immune Design. Carter will use some of his business experience to help “do a little organizing” of the staff, which … Next Page »

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  • http://www.theaerogarden.co.uk/ Gardening

    So much for gardening?? I can’t understand the title. Was he in gardening before?

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

    You have to read to the end of the story to get the gardening reference. Carter said that was a favorite hobby of his when he announced his retirement last fall, and I asked him if he really spent much time doing that over the past year. Obviously, he’s going to be more busy now with work at Immune Design.

  • Daniel

    Sorry but this is a good article, and the comment you reply to Luke I would consider as blatant spam! Sorry just thought this would help build on the authenticity of this blog.