Tuesday, March 4, 2014

I did not know that: the CEO of Gilead has a Ph.D. in organic chemistry

From friend of the blog The Aqueous Layer, an article noting that Gilead CEO John C. Martin has now become a billionaire off the success of HCV drug Sovaldi: an nice tidbit (emphasis mine):
The number of options and shares are in part attributable to Martin’s long tenure at the company, most of it as CEO, said Cara Miller, a spokeswoman for Gilead, in an e-mail. The cost of a 12-week regimen of Sovaldi along with interferon and another drug “is consistent with and in many cases actually less” than older treatments that require longer duration of therapy, she said. 
Gilead closed down 1.6 percent to $81.45 in New York. 
The billionaire, who has a doctorate in organic chemistry from the University of Chicago and an MBA from Golden Gate University, has spent most of his career working on antiviral drugs, and has been an active dealmaker, willing to pay a premium for companies with drugs that show promise. 
After one of its hepatitis C compounds had setbacks in early testing, Gilead acquired Sovaldi by buying Pharmasset Inc. for almost $11 billion in 2012, at a price that represented an 89 percent premium to Pharmasset’s price before the deal was announced in November 2011. Gilead stock has more than quadrupled since then.
I've long held that chemists don't necessarily make better CEOs than MBAs, with Thomas D'Ambra of AMRI and John Lechleiter of Lilly as the prime examples. Dr. Martin just might be the exception that proves the rule?

Via Google, it appears that Dr. Martin was a steroid chemist in graduate school -- who would have been his advisor? Here's a short biography about his MBA from Golden Gate University and his early years in San Francisco. 

14 comments:

  1. I'm not sure there's any reason to think chemists make worse CEOs than MBAs, and would posit that most MBAs (probably including myself) are actually pretty clueless. a priori, I'd actually think chemists make better CEOs than MBAs, but that's likely born of some bias and is lacking in supportive data.....

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  2. Actually his ChemE degree from Purdue may be more of a key marker to potential CEO prospects rather than the Chem PhD and MBA (which I often see cancel each other out in determination of value)

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  3. I'd guess his advisor was Josef Fried, although I cannot find corroborating evidence right now. But steroids at U of C in the 70s suggests Fried.

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    1. I also should point out that when I typed "John C. Martin" into Google this morning it auto-completed to "John C. Martin phd" so I'm pretty sure this post caused enough interest to affect Google's auto-complete algorithm (whatever that entails).

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    2. Corroborated: NYTimes: On the Discovery Trail. Also, Martin seems to really like Donald Rumsfeld. That's cool (and kind of randomly included in the article).

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    3. Bring the MoviesMarch 5, 2014 at 9:19 AM

      Liking Rumsfeld? Thats scary. All I can hope is that Rumsfeld has better knowledge of running a company than he does on the requirements for an invasion. He disasterously failed on the later. He really hurt America in that regard, IMO.

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    4. Was it a problem of him not knowing the requirements for the invasion or President Bush not caring?

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    5. It was a problem of Rumsfeld not listening to the advice of someone with more experience then him (Colin Powell) because he thought he knew better, and Bush listening to the more charming man. Perhaps a mechanism of functional failure shared by large Pharma.

      *sigh*

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    6. That never happens...maybe once in a while (*cough* Sirtris *cough*)...OK, maybe a lot.

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    7. "Perhaps a mechanism of functional failure shared by large Pharma."

      And every other industry in existence, include tiny biotech....

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  4. The Aqueous LayerMarch 5, 2014 at 12:01 PM

    Also, Martin seems to really like Donald Rumsfeld. That's cool (and kind of randomly included in the article).

    From the Gilead Wiki page: In January 1997, Donald Rumsfeld, a Board member since 1988, was appointed Chairman of the company. He stood down from the Board in January 2001 when appointed United States Secretary of Defense...

    So, not so random.


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    1. Well, it says that in the article I reference (that he was chairman), but it doesn't reference other big wigs that Martin interacted with. Plus there's no real context for mentioning that Rummy was a board member in the broader scope of the article. Hence the random.

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  5. It's interesting to see that the top three officers are all PhD scientists. Doesn't happen too often anymore.

    John C. Martin, PhD Chief Executive Officer and Chairman
    Norbert W. Bischofberger, PhD Executive Vice President, Research and Development and Chief Scientific Officer
    John F. Milligan, PhD President and Chief Operating Officer

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    1. Martin and Bischofberger are both organic chemists, even. Certainly the exception that breaks the rule, imo. Milligan has a Ph.D. in biochemistry.

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