26 Feb 2021

Harvard Business School’s Baker Library Announces New Collection: John Hawkins Research Interviews about Henri Termeer, Longtime Chairman, CEO, and President of Genzyme Corporation


Henri Termeer in a lab in the 1980s.

BOSTON and NEW YORK CITY—Harvard Business School (HBS) and Odgers Berndtson, a world leader in recruiting and developing organizational leaders, today jointly announced a new collection for the school’s Baker Library, made up of interviews with the colleagues and family of former Genzyme Corporation Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, and President Henri A. Termeer, one of biotech’s early pioneers.

The “John Hawkins Research Interviews about Henri Termeer” collection is a donation of transcripts of research interviews conducted by Hawkins during the writing of his biography of Termeer, Conscience and Courage: How Visionary CEO Henri Termeer Built a Biotech Giant and Pioneered the Rare Disease Industry. There are over 120 interviews included in this collection, with interviewees including leaders in biotech, science, academia, and government, such as former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, MIT President Dr. Rafael Reif, Harvard Medical School Dean Dr. George Daley, and Biogen Co-founder Dr. Philip A. Sharp.

Released in late 2019 and launched at Massachusetts General Hospital where Termeer had served on the board for 14 years, the book focuses on Termeer’s role as one of the first and most successful of a group of talented business executives who laid the foundations of today’s biotech industry. Hawkins commented, “Henri Termeer’s story is also a story of the history of orphan drug development, including the scientific, regulatory, and commercial challenges biotechnology innovators faced in introducing new, life-saving medicines for sometimes tiny markets. Leading Genzyme with his signature passion for patients, embracing personal responsibility as a cornerstone for successful leaders, and committing Genzyme to the introduction of therapies for unmet medical needs, Termeer cracked the code, creating the road map for today’s rare disease industry.”

During his 28-year career at Genzyme, including the longest tenure of any major biotech CEO, Termeer built Genzyme into a global Fortune 500 company with over $4 billion in annual revenues and 14,000 employees at its peak. He pioneered a business model that made it possible to treat small patient cohorts by gaining support from health insurers and governments for coverage of these novel, specialty market therapies. A fierce defender of the capital sources and the profits required to support risky biotech innovation, Termeer was an unyielding advocate for the R&D of breakthrough drugs, no matter how expensive they would prove to be.

“Having known and worked with Henri for over 45 years, I shared his enthusiasm for the enormous potential of biotechnology to remediate illness,” said Bob Carpenter, former lead director for the Genzyme board. “Henri’s leadership and advocacy for the development of treatments for lysosomal storage diseases and other rare disorders pioneered an approach that created value for the industry and lifesaving treatments for patients.”

“Odgers Berndtson, with the author’s consent and full participation, is happy to provide the Hawkins collection to Harvard Business School in order to take advantage of Baker Library’s expertise in business archives,” said Odgers Berndtson LLC CEO Steve Potter. “Henri Termeer put people before profits and through his leadership of one of the world’s leading drug developers he helped improve the lives of thousands who are afflicted with rare diseases.”

Equally important to Termeer’s story was his role as a mentor and developer of other important leaders. Both during his most active years at Genzyme, but also later in his career following his retirement from the company in 2011, he had immense impact on the development of scores of biotech and other CEOs. The interviews feature his thoughts on leadership and lessons learned over the years as someone who helped revolutionize an industry. “His influence continues to be felt by a generation of entrepreneurs whom he inspired to take on large and important challenges,” added Hawkins. “An extraordinary number of today’s biotech leaders were directly mentored by Henri Termeer. One of Henri’s greatest gifts was his focus on the future, which included the development of the human capital which surrounded him.”

“This collection provides scholars and students with insights into Henri Termeer’s career as a widely respected leader in the biotech community, both in the Boston area and internationally, providing a blueprint for today’s aspiring business leaders,” said Laura Linard, senior director, Baker Library Special Collections. “The materials also align with Baker Library’s focus on the records of innovative companies and the papers of thought leaders that have played a pivotal role in the contemporary business world.”

The de Gaspé Beaubien Reading Room, which houses special collections, is virtually open to researchers Monday-Friday, from 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.


Mark Cautela

About Harvard Business School

Founded in 1908 as part of Harvard University, Harvard Business School is located on a 40-acre campus in Boston. Its faculty of more than 250 offers full-time programs leading to the MBA and PhD degrees, as well as more than 175 Executive Education programs, and Harvard Business School Online, the School’s digital learning platform. For more than a century, faculty have drawn on their research, their experience in working with organizations worldwide, and their passion for teaching, to educate leaders who make a difference in the world. The School and its curriculum attract the boldest thinkers and the most collaborative learners who will go on to shape the practice of business and entrepreneurship around the globe.