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COLLECTION Identifier: MSS:6243 1980-2018 T319

Henri A. Termeer papers


The Henri A. Termeer papers, spanning the years 1980 to 2018, document the career of an entrepreneur and biotechnology executive known for leading Genzyme Corporation from 1983 to 2011.


  • Creation: 1980-2018


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials stored onsite.

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Conditions Governing Use

In many cases, Baker Library does not hold the copyright to the materials in its collections. Researchers are responsible for determining copyright status and identifying and contacting any copyright holders for permission to reproduce or publish content from collections. Baker Library has included the names of third-party copyright holders at the folder and item level when known.


52 linear feet (100 boxes, 6 cartons)

This collection documents the career of biotechnology executive and entrepreneur Henri A. Termeer (1946-2017) who served as president and CEO of Genzyme Corporation from 1983 to 2011. As such, the collection contains administrative records of Termeer’s tenure at Genzyme and its subsidiaries, published material related to the biotech, pharmaceutical, and life sciences industry, publicity, photographs, audiovisual materials, and memorabilia. These papers also document Termeer’s professional activities serving in leadership of various organizations and the boards of corporations. Materials in this collection include correspondence, board meeting records, news clippings, articles, analyst reports, research reports, corporate reports, promotional material, photographs, video cassettes, audio cassettes, graphic materials, tombstones, journals, and periodicals.

Biographical / Historical

Henri A. Termeer (1946-2017) was an entrepreneur and biotechnology executive known for leading Genzyme Corporation from 1983 to 2011. Termeer was born February 28, 1946 in Tilburg, The Netherlands. He studied economics at the Economische Hogeschool, Erasmus University and earned a MBA degree from the University of Virginia Darden School of Business in 1973. In the same year he began working at Baxter Travenol, an American healthcare company, where he held various management positions in the United States and Europe over the next decade. The company’s CEO William Graham mentored Termeer and he became of one of several former Baxter employees who would become CEOs of early biotech companies known as the “Baxter Boys.” These connections later proved useful to Termeer as he worked to organize other leaders of the biotech industry toward achieving common goals.

Genzyme Corporation appointed Termeer as its president in 1983, and he would later become chief executive officer in 1985, and chairman in 1988. At the time of his appointment, Genzyme was a two-year old startup with 35 employees housed in a former warehouse in Boston’s Chinatown neighborhood. Termeer would grow the company to 11,000 employees with a worldwide presence. Under Termeer’s leadership, Genzyme focused on orphan drugs, which are therapeutic treatments for rare diseases and conditions that affect fewer than 200,000 people in the United States. This ran contrary to the typical approach of biotechnology companies at the time of developing blockbuster drugs for ailments that affected large numbers of people. Major products created by Genzyme include Ceredase (1991) and Cerezyme (1994) for Gaucher's disease, Renagel (1998) for chronic kidney disease, and Fabrazyme (2003) for Fabry disease.

Termeer developed a patient-centric business model for Genzyme that became widely imitated in the biotech industry. He was personally involved with their patients and families and familiar with details of each patient’s case. Critics of Genzyme and Termeer often focused on the high price of their products which were some of the most expensive drugs in the world. Termeer defended the pricing because of the high cost of research and development and production, as well as the limited number of patients making it impossible to scale up production. He worked with patients to make sure that they would not shoulder the burden of costs by ensuring they got reimbursement from private healthcare or government programs. He also set aside 10% of Genzyme’s products to be distributed for free in poorer countries. Termeer advocated federal and state governments for legislation for developing and providing access to orphan drugs. Through this work he formed a close working relationship with U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts.

In 1990, Termeer moved the company’s headquarters to One Kendall Square at the heart of Cambridge’s blossoming biotech cluster. While most pharmaceuticals were manufactured in New Jersey and around Philadelphia, Termeer advocated for a production plant in Massachusetts, wanting it to be close to the region’s universities, medical centers, and venture capital firms. Genzyme opened its production facility at Allston Landing in Boston in 1992. The Genzyme corporate headquarters moved again in 2003 to a modern, purpose-built facility in Cambridge called Genzyme Center.

Termeer faced a great crisis in June 2009 due to the contamination of the Allston Landing facility by Vesivirus 2110. The viral infection caused Genzyme to shut down production for almost a year to decontaminate the facility. This lead to shortages of Cerezyme and Fabrazyme for patients and the company was criticized for not having backup facilities. The crisis lead to a shakeup in investors and to Genzyme becoming a target for a takeover. Sanofi-Aventis acquired Genzyme for $20.1 billion in October 2011, and Termeer retired the same year.

In addition to his work leading Genzyme, Termeer was active in many industry-wide organizations. In 1993, he helped found the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) to act as a lobbying organization for the biotech sector and patient groups. Termeer also helped found the New England Healthcare Institute (NEHI) in 2002, bringing together 20 other leaders of the healthcare industry. He additionally served on the boards of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufactures Association (PhRMA), the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, and several biotech companies. He was a longtime supporter of the Biomedical Science Careers Program (BSCP) which sought to increase the representation of minority and disadvantaged people in the industry. As an advocate for business and economic growth in Massachusetts he served as a member of Governor William Weld’s Governor’s Council on Economic Growth and Technology in the early 1990s and in 2008 Governor Deval Patrick appointed Termeer to the Massachusetts Council of Economic Advisors.

Termeer died May 12, 2017 in Marblehead, Massachusetts.

Some details in the biographical note are from published sources, including:

Hawkins, John, Conscience and Courage: How Visionary CEO Henri Termeer Built a Biotech Giant and Pioneered the Rare Disease Industry.

Weisman, Robert and Bryan Marquard, "Henri Termeer, key biotech leader who built Genzyme into an industry giant, dead at 71," The Boston Globe, May 13, 2017.


There are 7 series in the papers: Henri A. Termeer executive administrative records; Henri A. Termeer professional activities files; Genzyme Corporation publications and publicity files; Photographs; Audiovisual materials; Memorabilia; and Industry information and research files.

Physical Location


Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Henry A. Termeer papers (M-19-006) were received by Baker Library Special Collections as a donation from Belinda Termeer in 2018.

Processing Information

Processed: April 2023 By: Liam Sullivan

Baker Library
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Repository Details

Part of the Baker Library Special Collections and Archives, Harvard Business School Repository

Baker Library Special Collections and Archives holds unique resources that focus on the evolution of business and industry, as well as the records of the Harvard Business School, documenting the institution's development over the last century. These rich and varied collections support research in a diverse range of fields such as business, economic, social and cultural history as well as the history of science and technology.

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