Oral history interview with Henri Termeer

Oral history interview with Henri Termeer

  • 2006-May-23 (First interview)
  • 2006-Dec-07 (Second interview)
  • 2007-Aug-02 (Third interview)
  • 2008-Dec-18 (Fourth interview)
  • 2011-Sep-30 (Fifth interview)
Photograph of Henri Termeer

Henri Termeer begins his interview by discussing his parents’ histories, the influence of family, and his entrance into the business world. He describes how, as a boy, he began to develop leadership skills as early as his Boy Scout years and built upon them in military service after high school. He also showed a strong interest in the business process and describes how he studied economics in university. While writing his master’s thesis, he acquired his first job in systems engineering. He recounts how he developed, implemented, and then managed the computerization of Norvic, a now defunct European shoe company.

From shoes, Termeer describes his move into the medical and healthcare product business, holding various management positions at Baxter Travenol Laboratories Inc. (now Baxter International) in the United States and Europe, including executive vice president of Baxter’s Hyland Therapeutic Division and General Manager of Travenol GmbH in Germany. Through his work for Baxter, Termeer gained the experience necessary to head Genzyme in 1983, a then two-year-old start-up biotechnology company, located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Under his leadership, Genzyme pioneered treatments for patients with rare genetic diseases. Termeer recounts Genzyme’s experience with Gaucher disease and the developments of Ceredase and then Cerezyme, and how Genzyme developed and distributed other innovative treatments to patients. Under his leadership, Genzyme became a global biotech business, diversifying through acquisitions across areas including LSDs (lysosomal storage disorders), orthopedics, cancer, transplant and immune diseases, and diagnostic testing. Termeer found time to be involved in many bio-related organizations, including BIO and PhrMA, and to be involved in policy issues regarding drug development and healthcare as well as in a number of local community organizations in Boston. He concludes his interview with comments on Boston biotech, the future of biotech more generally, and personalized genomic medicine.

Property Value
Place of interview
  • 68 pages
Rights Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License
Rights holder
  • Science History Institute
Credit line
  • Courtesy of Science History Institute
Digitization funder
  • Audio synchronization made possible through the generous funding of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

About the Interviewers

Arnold Thackray founded the Chemical Heritage Foundation and served the organization as president for 25 years. He is currently CHF’s chancellor. Thackray received MA and PhD degrees in history of science from Cambridge University. He has held appointments at Cambridge, Oxford University, and Harvard University, the Institute for Advanced Study, the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In 1983 Thackray received the Dexter Award from the American Chemical Society for outstanding contributions to the history of chemistry. He served for more than a quarter century on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania, where he was the founding chairman of the Department of History and Sociology of Science and is currently the Joseph Priestley Professor Emeritus.

Ted Everson, the director of clinical communications at Vital Issues in Medicine (VIM), a medical education company, earned a PhD in history and philosophy of science and technology from the University of Toronto and an MS in medical genetics from the University of British Columbia. During his tenure at CHF he founded the biotechnology program, which included focused scholarship on industry development. He is the author of The Gene: A Historical Perspective (2007), “Genetic Engineering Methods” in The Encyclopedia of Twentieth Century Technology (2004), and “Genetics and Molecular Biology” in History of the Exact Sciences and Mathematics (2002).

Physical location

Oral history number 0342

Related Items

Interviewee biographical information

  • February 28, 1946
  • Tiburg, Netherlands
  • May 12, 2017
  • Marblehead, Massachusetts, United States


Year Institution Degree Discipline
Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam Economics
1973 University of Virginia MBA

Professional Experience

Baxter International Inc.

  • 1975 to 1976 International Marketing Manager
  • 1976 to 1979 General Manager, Travenol GMBH
  • 1979 to 1981 Executive Vice President, Hyland Therapeutics Division
  • 1981 to 1982 International Marketing Manager, Artificial Organs Division

Genzyme Transgenics Corporation

  • 1983 to 1984 President and Director
  • 1985 to 1987 Chief Executive Officer
  • 1988 Chairman


Year(s) Award
1990 to 1992 Wall Street Transcript Gold Award
1991 Laguna Niguel Best of Biotech Award (for Genzyme)
1992 Merrill Lynch and Ernst & Young, Inc. "Entrepreneur of the Year"
1994 Laguna Niguel Best of Biotech Award (for Genzyme)
1995 Sucess Magazine "Renegade of the Year"
1995 Anti-Defamation League's New England Region's Torch of Liberty
1997 Hall of Fame Award (for Genzyme); Special Recognition for an Individual Award, Biotech Meeting at Laguna Niguel, Tenth Anniversary Celebration
1997 Cardinal Cushing School for Exceptional Children, "Humanitarian of the Year."
1997 Governor's New American Appreciation Award for his success as a foreign-born entrepreneur in America.
1999 Honoree o the Biomedical Science Careers Project's (BSCP's) Evening of Hope. 
1999 Golden Door award from the International Institute of Boston. 
1999 Fellow in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
1999 Genetic Disease Foundation Humanitarian Award
2001 Boston History Collaborative's 2001 "History Makers" Award in Biotechnology (accepted on behalf of Genzyme).
2003 Cor Vitae Award from the American Heart Association. 
2003 Franklin Delano Roosevelt Humanitarian Award from the March of Dimes. 
2005 Honorary Fellowship at the British Royal College of Physicians. 
2005 United States National Medal of Technology and Innovation (accepted on behalf of Genzyme).
2007 Ernst & Young's "Master Entrepreneur" Award
2008 Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF) and Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) Biotechnology Heritage Award.
2012 RARE Lifetime Achievement Award

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The published version of the transcript may diverge from the interview audio due to edits to the transcript made by staff of the Center for Oral History, often at the request of the interviewee, during the transcript review process.

Complete Interview Audio File Web-quality download

6 Separate Interview Segments Archival-quality downloads