[Updated: 3:12 pm, 9/27/10] Dendreon CEO Mitchell Gold has said for years he wants his company to morph into the anchor for Seattle’s biotech community, the prominent role once filled by Immunex in the 1990s. The notion is that Dendreon (NASDAQ: DNDN) could become profitable, stable, and exciting enough to be a magnet that draws top scientists and businesspeople from around the world.
It’s still very much an open question whether Dendreon will have staying power as an independent company, or whether it will get taken over like Seattle’s other major biotechs of the past. Right now at least, the company is on a hiring binge, on pace to triple in size from 200 employees a year ago to about 600 this year. The frenzy is happening in the anticipation that Dendreon will soon win FDA approval to start selling the first drug of its kind that actively stimulates the immune system to fight prostate cancer, sipuleucel-T (Provenge).
But even if Dendreon gets bought out tomorrow, before it starts selling its first product, it will have already left a mark on Seattle. It has been a formative experience for a long list of employees who have moved on to other biotech companies in Seattle and elsewhere. Many were shaped by the perseverance it took to be part of an organization that faced intense skepticism and endured some agonizing ups and downs since its founding in 1992. When conclusive data arrived in April 2009 to prove that Dendreon’s drug extends lives, the company took pride in announcing it had shocked the cancer research world. It unfurled a giant banner on its headquarters that proclaimed “global impact starts here.”
“Anybody who can sustain through what Dendreon has sustained—it’s a good sign of who they are,” says Martin Simonetti, the former chief financial officer at Dendreon who is now CEO of Seattle-based VLST. “You really had a lot of entrepreneurial risk-takers there. There were a lot of good people that made good things happen.”
To get a handle on the Dendreon diaspora, I’ve assembled a directory with updated links to help people connect and re-connect with them. I have made sure this list includes not just mover-shaker types that I’ve interviewed over the years, but also the rank-and-file who have moved on to other organizations. The list includes 83 names at last count, but I expect it to grow over time. Thanks go out to a few Dendreon alumni who have helped get this list started: Simonetti, Julie Rathbun, and Deborah Elvins.
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 or someone you know is a Dendreon alumnus who would like to be included, please send me a note. Feel free to send any comments, questions, or new information to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Over time, I hope this story can become a richer and more valuable resource for Dendreon alumni. Here’s the list I’ve put together in alphabetical order, with the most updated titles and affiliations I found online.
Guy Barbaro, senior vice president of finance and accounting, Current TV
David Bienvenue, associate director of protein sciences, VLST
Brian Blackman, director of business operations, BN ImmunoTherapeutics
Mara Gia Boykin, senior quality assurance associate, Light Sciences Oncology