Photo of Genzyme Incorporated

Genzyme Incorporated

  • National Medal of Technology and Innovation
  • Medicine

For pioneering dramatic improvements in the health of thousands of patients with rare diseases and harnessing the promise of biotechnology to develop innovative new therapies.

Henri Termeer on the founding of Genzyme

When Genzyme Inc. was founded in 1981, the company wanted to focus on developing treatments for rare, deadly diseases. By attacking the most difficult cases, former CEO Henri Termeer recalled, the company was able to provide new hope to a legion of patients who otherwise felt forgotten and powerless.

From those humble beginnings – a handful of employees in an old clothing warehouse in Boston, Mass., working in conjunction with the National Institutes of Health – the company has grown to become one of the world’s leaders in biotechnology, pioneering innovative therapies for a range of diseases. Initially, the focus was to develop a treatment for the rare Goucher disease. But in the ensuing decades, Genzyme would expand into therapies for diseases such as thyroid cancer and multiple sclerosis.

The company started by Henry Blair to develop enzyme therapies was bought in 2011 by French pharmaceutical company, Sanofi, for $20 billion in 2011. Sanofi Genzyme is headquartered in Cambridge, Mass., and has thousands of employees and 40 locations scattered across the globe.

The company had revenues of $4 billion in 2015.

By Bob Warren