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New Blood: Biotech CEOs Bring Fresh Experience to Houston Ecosystem

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can happen if a catheter accidentally punctures a vessel as it’s being inserted.

Syed says he believes that the startup is very close to getting FDA clearance for the medical device. “They’re looking to exit and they believe I’m going to be able to help them,” Syed says. “The idea of leading this company to the finish line seemed attractive to me.”

Another reason why he says he decided to stay in Houston was, once he got here, he began to see the city’s potential in biotech. “I see what’s going on with TMC, JLabs; I wish I was involved earlier to lend my experience to the stuff that’s going on,” he says.

Bellicum’s Fair was formerly the head of Genentech’s oncology global product strategy division in San Francisco, and replaced founding executive Tom Farrell. “I’ve been in the industry for 20 years, the first 16 in purely commercial roles,” Fair says. “I’ve come to Bellicum at a time when that’s an increasingly important skill set.”

Fair says his choice to commute from San Francisco to Houston is largely because he has middle-school and high-school aged children, and that he hopes to get more connected with Houston’s biotech community. “Bellicum is very connected to Houston so it’s in our interest and we’re eager to see a lot of success here so we can cultivate a better talent pool,” he says.

Coats, of Lexicon, took the helm nearly four years ago in August 2014. He replaced the biotech’s founding CEO Arthur Sands, who was dismissed following major cuts at Lexicon in order to cut costs. The company’s board cited his 18-year career at Tokyo-based Eisai’s US subsidy where he had a hand in $5 billion worth of acquisitions and partnerships, as a main reason for bringing him on board. But it wasn’t until this year that Coats decided he needed to be in Houston full-time—around the same time that Lexicon got FDA approval and now has a product to sell.

“Success begets success,” Coats says. “The moment you have a surviving company that commercializes a product where the science was founded in Texas and the product make it to market, people will pay attention. You haven’t had enough of that happening in Houston yet.”

Coats, of course, says he believes Lexicon will be among that vanguard.

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