Two of the biggest stories in biotech this week, Flexus Biosciences and NGM Biopharmaceuticals, had something in common. They were both led by entrepreneurs who cut their teeth years ago at Tularik.
That company name from the past is dotted all over the employment histories of the people now running Flexus Biosciences and NGM Biopharmaceuticals. For those who missed it, San Carlos, Calif.-based Flexus was acquired by Bristol-Myers Squibb for $800 million upfront, plus $450 million in milestones. South San Francisco-based NGM Biopharmaceuticals opted to stay independent, but struck a partnership with Merck that provides $450 million in upfront and committed R&D funding over the next five years.
David Goeddel, the legendary first scientist hired by Genentech, had his fingerprints all over both deals, as a venture investor at The Column Group, and as a member of both boards. But Goeddel didn’t create all that value himself. He co-founded Tularik in 1991, and helped create a company that attracted lots of smart, hardworking people who filled up his contact list. The company had about 300 employees when it was acquired in 2004 for $1.3 billion. Many have left over the years to populate big companies like Genentech and Gilead, as well as startups like Flexus and NGM. Subscribers to Timmerman Report can see a detailed list of where more than 150 Tularik alumni are now.