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.