As the industry looks forward to 2020 at the 38th Annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference next week, BioWorld is looking backward to those we lost in the past year.
Michael Becker, who served as CEO of Cytogen Corp. and Vioquest Pharmaceuticals Inc. before founding the investor and public relations company BDB Communications LLC, took his diagnosis of stage IV head and neck cancer in stride, blogging and speaking about the realities of living with a terminal disease while advocating for vaccination against the human papillomavirus, which induced his cancer.
After his diagnosis, Becker published A Walk With Purpose, a memoir covering his life as an investment advisor, CEO and patient. He died on July 9 at his home.
Bradley Fikes could light up the press room at medical conferences like no one else. And that wasn't just the bright shirts and clashing suspenders worn by the San Diego Union Tribune biotech reporter; Fikes was a ball of energy who his Union Tribune colleagues characterized as "part Dr. Dolittle, part Inspector Gadget."
Trained as a journalist at San Diego State University, his background knowledge of science gained over the years was superb. Fikes often set up shop at Bella Vista, a cafe in La Jolla, where he might run into academics and biotech executives; he was there so often that he had a spaghetti dish, the Il Journalista, named after him.
Kelly Lindenboom, managing director of the emerging companies practice at Pure Communications, which was recently acquired by W2O, died unexpectedly on Dec. 4. Lindenboom previously worked as internal communications for various companies, including Inventiv Health Inc., Verenium Corp., Ariad Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Millennium Pharmaceuticals Inc.
"Kelly was a talented communications strategist and will be missed by all of us who had the opportunity to get to know and work with her over the years. She was a much-loved mentor to many, who invested in her team both professionally and personally. Her clever wit, amazing sense of style and, importantly, love for her daughter, will long be remembered," Andrea Johnston, who founded Pure and is now group partner and managing partner of W20, and Josie Butler, account director at W2O pure, wrote to BioWorld.
Pam Lord, managing director of the biotech-focused PR firm Canalecomm, died of pancreatic cancer on Dec. 23 at her home. Having finished first in her age group in a run a few month earlier, Lord was a "model of health and happiness" according to Carin Canale-Theakston, founder and CEO of Canalecomm. "Pam was committed to the industry and to her work. She wanted to keep working absolutely as long as she could even with full appreciation of the statistics of her disease.
"Our office already misses her mentorship, her kind heart, her thoughtfulness and perhaps most of all – her loud, uninhibited laughter that often echoed through the halls," Canale-Theakston wrote in a Linkedin post.
Thomas Neff, who founded Fibrogen Inc. in 1993 and previously worked on the acquisition of royalty interests that ultimately led to the formation of Royalty Pharma, died unexpectedly at home on Aug. 25
"Tom was a passionate and inspirational leader who applied his belief in technology and advancement to one specific goal: that of bringing relief to people suffering from medical conditions for which there was a lack of effective treatments. He founded Fibrogen to make this goal a reality, and was intimately involved in the development of Fibrogen’s innovative science and product platforms. He firmly believed in the potential of therapies based on the oxygen-sensing (HIF signaling) pathway. He would have been thrilled to see Fibrogen entering 2020 with roxadustat approved in Japan as well as in China, the NDA filed in the U.S., and the 2019 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine awarded based on elucidation of the body’s oxygen-sensing mechanisms and the involvement of HIF," Jim Schoeneck, chairman and interim president of Fibrogen told BioWorld.
Glenn Oclassen, a member of Verrica Pharmaceuticals Inc.'s board, died on Nov. 13. Oclassen had been around the industry for decades, having founded Oclassen Pharmaceuticals Inc., which was sold to Watson Laboratories in 1997. He also served as president and CEO of Transcept Pharmaceuticals Inc.
"Glenn was an icon within the dermatology industry, who brought a wealth of experience and knowledge to the Verrica team. He was passionate about advancing Verrica’s science and business, and committed to elevating the way in which we aimed to address a substantial unmet need, and serve our stakeholders with excellence. Glenn was a strategic thinker, with exceptional business acumen, and he partnered with us as a colleague and collaborator. To me, Glenn was not only a critical component of our growth and success; he was a teammate and a friend, and he will be sorely missed," Ted White, president and CEO of Verrica told BioWorld.
Erin Pascal, who was the director of corporate social responsibility and community relations at Sanofi SA's Genzyme unit died on Christmas day after falling with her two children from a parking structure in what authorities classified as a likely a double murder-suicide. Pascal also worked at Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc.
Mark Schoenebaum, a sell-side equity research analyst covering the biotech industry, died Aug 24. Schoenebaum, whose career spanned CIBC, Piper Jaffrey, Bear Stearns, Deutsche Bank and ISI Evercore, was ranked the No. 1 biotechnology analyst for 12 years in a row by Institutional Investor.
"We’ve all looked up to him as the very best equity research analyst there has ever been on Wall Street. But that was only part of who he was: he was an absolute standout individual who touched so many lives, and whose strength of character showed in his sheer humility despite his absolutely unprecedented success," wrote fellow Evercore ISI analyst Umer Raffat.
Frank Young, commissioner of the FDA for five years starting in 1984, died on Nov. 24 of B-cell lymphoma. During his tenure, Young oversaw the approval of azidothymidine, the HIV/AIDS therapy better known as AZT, as well as increased inspection procedures following the tampering of Tylenol-branded capsules of acetaminophen.
Earlier in his career, Young discovered BAM H1, the DNA restriction enzyme used in cloning. He also served as a dean of the School of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Rochester in New York, a venture capitalist and an associate pastor at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Bethesda, Md.