The recent elevation of George Rathmann to all the topexecutive posts at Icos Corp. has burnished the company'sreputation on Wall Street.
"Rathmann taking over is an enormously positive event --squared," said Peter Drake of Vector Securities InternationalInc. "With (Robert) Nowinski leaving, the decks are cleared forclear leadership for managing the company and for the scienceorganization."
Icos on Sept. 27 announced that Nowinski, who was one of thefounders of the company, was leaving to pursue otheropportunities. The departure broke up the three-memberfounding team -- Chairman Rathmann, President and ChiefExecutive Nowinski and Executive Vice President and ScienceDirector Chris Henney -- that had provided Icos with instantcredibility and startling fund-raising success as a start-up.
"They're lucky to get Rathmann to do this," said Oppenheimer &Co. analyst Jeffrey Casdin. "You have to give Nowinski a lot ofcredit to get George to do this. There's just one Rathmann. Theybroke the mold when they made him. There's no one better toget products out of a basic research situation."
"George Rathmann has made more money for people in biotechinvesting than probably the aggregate of the other players inthe industry," said Drake. "So why wouldn't you take a shot atinvesting in him? That's a no-brainer."
Drake added, "Chris Henney has distinguished himself in beingearly and consistent in his appraisal of new technologies."
Nowinski recruited Henney from Immunex Corp., where Henneyhad been founder, scientific director and vice chairman.Together, they chose the company's two research areas:inhibitors of cell activation and ways to influence celltrafficking.
They also recruited Rathmann. "From the beginning, the conceptwas we would get someone with a more businesslikeorientation," Henney told BioWorld.
Getting Rathmann on board in the beginning was vital,according to Henney, "not least in George's ability to help usraise funds. Bob and I could have raised money together, but wewouldn't have raised the money we did without George." Icospulled in a record $33 million in first-round financing lastyear and grossed $36 million in a June initial public offering,despite the fact that the company has no product close to theclinic.
It also was Rathmann who quarterbacked negotiations leadingto the company's recent collaborative agreement with GlaxoHoldings plc to develop drugs to treat inflammatory andcardiovascular diseases.
"I wasn't always interested in this job," said Rathmann, whoadded the positions of president and chief executive officer tohis duties as chairman.
Rathmann told BioWorld that if Nowinski had left later, theremight have been other candidates to take his place. But, hesaid, "at this point in time it was the natural thing to do."
Rathmann, who is 63, said he foresees no major shifts at Icos.Asked about his own strengths, he said: "I think it's importantto learn all I can about the industry and use the accumulatedexperience of other companies to learn. You've got to be alertto how the industry is doing and what makes success and whatmight cause trouble. The main common denominator is veryheavy dependence on leading-edge science and trying to drivethat science toward the marketplace."
Henney said Nowinski's departure won't have any effect on hisjob or on the third member of the management team, JaniceLeCocq, who is executive vice president for finance andadministration.
Rathmann said he wouldn't be surprised if Nowinski startedanother company. Nowinski previously founded GeneticSystems Corp. and engineered its sale to Bristol-Myers for$294 million.
Nowinski, who wasn't available for comment, is Icos' largeststockholder, with 8.6 percent of the common stock(NASDAQ:ICOS). Icos stock closed at $17 on Friday. In its IPO,the shares sold for $8.
-- Karen Bernstein BioWorld Staff
(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.