Dr. Leonard S. Schleifer, M.D., Ph.D.
Founder, President, and CEO, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals
Excerpt from remarks to Boston College Chief Executives Club
May 18, 2017
I think one of the interesting aspects of Regeneron and why you’ve been so innovative over the years is you really believe in having R&D in house. That’s really a model that a lot of American biopharma is starting to get away with. Tell us a bit about that. As you do, explain for the group the really unique technologies that you have around monoclonal antibodies and fusion proteins.
Sure. OK, so that’s a lot to cover, but let me start by saying that when I went into business, I thought that the business we were going to be in was discovering drugs that could make people’s lives better. It wasn’t a very complicated business plan. The notion that you would do this any other way than by research—to me, that was just what made the most sense.
Now, the first thing I did, I remember, which I’m actually very proud of, is that the investors who gave us some money—people who give out money to entrepreneurs like to have a lot of rules. One of my directors, Tony Coles, would say he does that. If you’re looking for some money—a little plug for Tony. But they always put in these rules—well, you know, we’re going to need an audit committee to check up on you. OK, I don’t know what that does, but that’s fine. By the way, you can’t really pay yourself. We’ll have to have a compensation committee to decide how much you’re going to make. I wasn’t too thrilled with that, but I went along with it.
But I turned to them and I said, wait a minute. If we’re going to do this, how about if we have a technology committee? There was not a single company that we could find in America at that time that had a technology committee. And here we were going to be in the technology business. Now virtually every company in the world has a technology committee. But the remarkable thing is too many companies, I think, are not willing—they give lip service to what they think they are. They want to be research companies, but they’re not. If you look at the boards, that’s a pretty good indicator.
Our board—the majority of the board of directors are physician scientists—physicians or scientists. Two Nobel laureates. We had three. My friend Al passed away last year, unfortunately. And half of the board are members of the National Academy of Sciences, which is almost unprecedented—as is George, by the way, on the board—a member of the National Academy. We don’t just say we want to do research. The ethos of the company is research.