Retired biotechnology executive Henri A. Termeer, who built Genzyme into the largest US company specializing in drugs to treat rare genetic disorders, is donating $10 million to Massachusetts General Hospital to establish it as a world leader in personalized medicine, according to the Boston Globe.
The new Henri and Belinda Termeer Center for Targeted Therapies will be aimed at bringing the emerging field into the forefront of treatment and research. Its initial focus will be on drugs tailored to the genetic makeup of tumors, especially breast cancers, lung cancers, and leukemias. Currently, there are few effective treatments for patients with less common types of the diseases.
Targeted therapies attack points of vulnerability in a tumor’s genetic makeup, disabling pathways that enable the cancer to survive and grow.
“I hope this will help Massachusetts be recognized globally as the knowledge center in targeted medicines,’’ said Termeer, who stepped down as chief executive of Cambridge-based Genzyme last spring. “This is a global effort, but Massachusetts has the responsibility to lead, to use the talents and capabilities it has built over many years.’’
The center will be run by Dr. Jose Baselga, one of the world’s leading cancer specialists, who was recruited from Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology in Barcelona last year to be chief of hematology-oncology at Mass. General. It will be part of the 25-year-old Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, led by Dr. Daniel A. Haber.
Termeer’s gift is one of the largest earmarked for fighting cancer in the hospital’s history, but the hospital will solicit additional money from Boston area philanthropists. Hospital officials hope to raise another $10 million over the next two years to expand the center’s work.
Mass. General, the largest hospital in New England and the nation’s largest research hospital, will use the Termeer donation to renovate space on the seventh floor of its Yawkey Center for Outpatient Care, where the Termeer Center will be located.
The money will also be used to buy medical equipment, recruit new employees, and offset the cost of clinical trials it will host. Initially, the center will have about 25 staff members, including new hires and current hospital employees who will be redeployed.