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Dr. Stephen Sherwin
Cell Genesys begins operations in South San Francisco, California. The company, led by Dr. Stephen Sherwin, specializes in three areas of product development, including gene and cell therapy, gene-activated therapeutic proteins and human monoclonal antibodies.
Abgenix, a spin-out of Cell Genesys focusing on antibody therapies, is started in 1996. One year later, Cell Genesys acquires Somatix Therapy Corporation, a cash-strapped gene-therapy company. The acquisition is a perfect marriage of money and science, and according to one analyst “one of those ideal combinations that are so rare in biotech." Somatix brings with it a promising new product development platform called GVAX cancer vaccines.
In 1999, Genzyme extends a tender offer to acquire Cell Genesys for $350 million, but the Board of Directors urges shareholders to reject the bid in order to take advantage of its tripling shares (worth $370 million) in Abgenix, developer of the revolutionary XenoMouse™ technology. Cell Genesys later sells its holdings in Abgenix for $250 million. In 2001, the company acquires Calydon, Inc. and launches Ceregene, a gene therapy company focusing on neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
Between 2001 and 2003, Cell Genesys concentrates its research and development efforts on oncolytic virus therapies and vaccines. An alliance with Novartis AG in 2003 for exclusive worldwide rights to oncolytic virus products paves the way for Phase III clinical trials of the GVAX Prostate Cancer Vaccine in 2004. BioSante Pharmaceuticals acquires Cell Genesys in 2009, and after a brief hiatus, resumes mid-stage clinical trials of the GVAX vaccine in 2011.