ZymoGenetics CEO Doug Williams Exits the Stage, Mulls Next Free Agent Move

11/8/10Follow @xconomy

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to manufacture enough of the drug to meet demand and ultimately was acquired by Amgen for $10 billion. Williams was tapped to stay at Amgen to be the Seattle site head, partly because he was well-respected by the talented scientists there and it was his job to retain them, as I described in a profile for The Seattle Times in August 2002.

Williams didn’t stay very long at Amgen himself, resigning in September 2002, about three months after the Thousand Oaks, CA-based took control. He resurfaced at Seattle Genetics in July 2003 as chief scientific officer, and stayed there about a year, until he moved over to ZymoGenetics as chief scientific officer. There, he was groomed to eventually succeed CEO Bruce Carter. Williams finally got his first shot as a biotech CEO at ZymoGenetics, starting on January 1, 2009.

The big albatross he had to deal with at the time was the flop of ZymoGenetics’ first marketed product, recombinant thrombin (Recothrom). ZymoGenetics failed to live up to its own expectations, and Wall Street’s, when it started marketing this drug. That debacle in 2008—in which ZymoGenetics only generated about $8.8 million in sales in its first year compared with $255 million for its chief competitor—greatly damaged the company’s stock price, depleted its cash reserves, and damaged the company’s once-solid credibility on Wall Street.

When Carter announced his retirement in November 2008, he said he would be available for advice, but would get out of Williams’s way and let him run the show. “If you hire a lion, you shouldn’t roar yourself. Let the lion roar,” Carter said at the time. ZymoGenetics, which went public at $12 a share in January 2002, had fallen all the way to $3.22 on the day that Williams was named the incoming CEO.

Once he got his shot, you could say Williams roared, but that not very many people on Wall Street heard, or wanted to hear. In an exclusive interview with Xconomy that ran his first week as CEO, Williams said he saw parallels at ZymoGenetics to some of the darkest days at Immunex, when it was struggling to survive. Just one week later, ZymoGenetics had its biggest positive news story in years—when it announced a potential $1.1 billion partnership with Bristol-Myers Squibb. That alliance was set up to co-develop and co-market pegylated interferon lambda, an experimental drug for hepatitis C designed to kill the virus without the nasty side effects of the standard interferon used today.

From there, with ZymoGenetics stock trading in the low-to-mid single digits, Williams … Next Page »

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