Today’s guest on The Long Run is Ron Renaud.
Ron is the CEO of Lexington, Mass.-based Translate Bio. The company is working on messenger RNA therapies. You may have heard about this technology. mRNA molecules provide genetic instructions for making proteins. The idea is to restore functional proteins that, for one reason or another, have gone awry in a disease process. If you can inject mRNA directly into people – always a big IF – then theoretically the cell machinery can be harnessed to essentially turn patients into their own mini-drug factories.
While Moderna captures most of the attention in this subsector of biotech – pulling off the industry’s biggest-ever IPO in December 2018 – it’s not the only game in this particular town. Translate is developing assets that have been tested for more than a decade, stretched back to early stealthy work done at Shire, the rare disease company. Translate actually went public six months before Moderna.
Ron comes to this juncture after a long and successful career on the business and finance side of the house. His biotech career took off at Amgen, and then he took a detour to Wall Street before coming back into executive leadership at Keryx and Idenix. Idenix was a turnaround story that he left on a high note, with a $3.9 billion acquisition by Merck.
Ron is not a scientist, and doesn’t try to pose as one. The important thing is that if you are a biotech CEO who’s a non-scientist, you had better be fluent in the scientific concepts, know the key questions to ask, and hire good people. Ron does all of that. Listening to him, I think you’ll hear a certain amount of humility in his voice. That’s a healthy thing, in my view.
It was a pleasure to speak with Ron about his career arc, hear his thoughts on biotech management, and the industry’s role within the society at large.