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The Vertex Alumni: Where Are They Now?

Xconomy Boston — 

[Updated: 1 pm, 11/26/11] Vertex Pharmaceuticals was a pretty audacious place, even by biotech standards, when it was founded twenty years ago. It started when a senior chemist from Merck, Joshua Boger, quit that job and assembled a small band of chemists that aimed to beat the Big Pharma companies at their own game of making small-molecule drugs.

That grand ambition still hasn’t been fulfilled, but Vertex has certainly come a long way. Boger handed over the reins last year to a new CEO whose mission is to to transform Vertex into a big, stable, profitable anchor for biotech in Boston for years to come. Vertex (NASDAQ: VRTX) now has more than 1,100 employees in Massachusetts and 1,400 worldwide, a stock market capitalization of almost $8 billion, and a hepatitis C drug in the final phase of clinical trials that could become the elusive billion-dollar molecule. (The quest for such a drug was famously described in a 1994 book.)

While the early days of swagger, clashing egos, and intense late night lab sessions are in the past, quite a few people shaped by that experience have spread through Boston biotech. Many are still pursuing their own big dreams.

“Vertex attracted people who liked fresh ideas, and high-profile situations, and that weren’t afraid of risk,” says Roger Tung, an early chemist at Vertex who is now CEO of Lexington, MA-based Concert Pharmaceuticals.

Now as Vertex graduates from its development phase into a more mature, integrated commercial enterprise, it is also starting to take on some sure signs of age and experience. One of those is a growing network of alumni, like Tung, who gained valuable experience they took with them. I sought to track down many of them to get a better sense of the impact the Vertex network is having today.

The list includes 35 names at last count, and I expect it to grow over time. Thanks to Tung, Aldrich of RA Capital, Justine Koenigsberg of Concert Pharmaceuticals, and Kathryn Morris of The Yates Network for their help getting the ball rolling.

Now I’d like to ask you for some 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 If you see any information below that’s out of date or incorrect, please let me know and I’ll fix it.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 are an alumnus yourself and would like to be added to the list, please send me a note or leave a comment at the bottom of the story. If you have any other questions, comments, or new information, ping me at ltimmerman@xconomy.com or editors@xconomy.com.

Rich Aldrich, co-founder RA Capital Management, chairman of the board, Concert Pharmaceuticals

Eva-Lotta Allan, chief business officer, Ablynx

David Armistead, executive-in-residence, Oxford Bioscience Partners

Tom Auchincloss, independent investment management professional

Joshua Boger, board member Vertex Pharmaceuticals, various nonprofits, co-chair of Progressive Business Leaders Network

Lee Brettman, chief medical officer, Alnara Pharmaceuticals

Lynne Brum, strategic communications advisor

Iain Buchanan, CEO, Novexel

Mark Carthy, managing partner, Orion Healthcare Equity Partners

Pravin Chaturvedi, chief scientific officer, Napo Pharmaceuticals

Doug Cole, general partner, Flagship Ventures

N. Anthony (Tony) Coles, president and CEO, Onyx Pharmaceuticals

Jess Frykholm, systems administrator, Sermo

Scott Harbeson, vice president of research, Concert Pharmaceuticals

Bart Henderson, president and founder, Rhythm Pharmaceuticals

Jugnu Jain, co-founder, Saarum Sciences [Added: 11/26/11]

Julius Knowles, head of platforms, strategic alliances, Novartis

Justine Koenigsberg, senior director of corporate communications, investor relations, Concert Pharmaceuticals

Freda Lewis-Hall, chief medical officer, Pfizer

David Livingston, senior vice president of biology, Ensemble Discovery

Steven Lyons, senior vice president, project management, Endo Pharmaceuticals

Jaren Irene Madden, vice president, life sciences, Feinstein Kean Healthcare [Added: 11:30 am Eastern, 4/29/10]

Robert Mashal, CEO, NKT Therapeutics

Robert McKelvey, principal and creative director, McKelvey Design [Added: 5:10 pm, 6/1/10]

Hal Meyers, founder, ProXyChem

Manuel Navia, executive-in-residence, Oxford Bioscience Partners

Debra Peattie, director of strategy and planning, Cubist Pharmaceuticals

Vicki Sato, professor of management practice, Harvard Business School

Jeff Saunders, head of chemistry, Agios Pharmaceuticals

Robert Silverman, vice president and general counsel, Concert Pharmaceuticals

Nancy Stuart, chief operating officer, Concert Pharmaceuticals

Shin-San Michael Su, vice president of drug discovery, interim chief scientific officer, Agios Pharmaceuticals

Roger Tung, co-founder, president, CEO, Concert Pharmaceuticals

Jeff Williams, president and CEO, Addicere Pharmaceuticals

Robert Zelle, vice president of drug development, Concert Pharmaceuticals

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  • Robert McKelvey, Principle and Creative Director at mckelvey design