David M. Mott was in his mid-twenties, a Dartmouth-educated Wall Street investment banker. Wayne T. Hockmeyer was in his mid-forties, a former doctor at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, the founder of a biotech start-up that later became known as MedImmune Inc.
Hockmeyer's business plan had crossed Mott's desk and dazzled him. So they met often at Ben Benson's Steak House in Manhattan to talk, over grilled prime rib and red wine, about their shared values and their vision of building a winning biotechnology company.
David Mott, left, Lois Top, Franklin Top and Wayne Hockmeyer at the groundbreaking for MedImmune's headquarters in Gaithersburg in June 2002.
(Timothy Jacobsen For The Washington Post)
One night, Hockmeyer told Mott that he envisioned a day when the young banker would succeed him as MedImmune's chief executive. "That was the plan," Mott said. They stuck to it, although they couldn't have predicted some of what followed.
Now Mott is 38, and he has been chief executive of MedImmune for four years. He runs one of the few biotech firms boasting four products on the market, not just in the labs. MedImmune has a sleek new headquarters in Gaithersburg, 1,900 employees, and nearly a billion dollars in annual revenue as of last year.
But the company gets most of its revenue from Synagis, a vaccine for a potentially dangerous respiratory virus in certain babies that has probably maxed out its market. Last year's launch of the nasal flu vaccine FluMist was, as Mott recently told an investor's conference, "a debacle of the first order." And the company doesn't expect to launch a new product until at least 2007. All of which calls into question Mott's forecast of $2 billion in revenue by 2009.
"It's a very challenging time," Mott said.
Hockmeyer, now MedImmune's chairman, said the ability to handle such tough situations is precisely why he courted Mott for a year and half, hired him as vice president of business development and eventually promoted him to chief executive. "He has a great sense of what it takes to be successful in five years or 10 years," Hockmeyer said. "He's someone who can function at high levels day to day, but still keep their eye on the goal line."
When Mott joined MedImmune in 1992, it was a homecoming of sorts. He grew up outside Hagerstown on a farm with "horses and cows and pigs and ducks and rabbits and chickens." He played football and lacrosse at the St. James School, went to Dartmouth, and eventually landed a job at Smith Barney in New York. Like Hockmeyer, he is given to sports metaphors, referring to potential drug products as "shots on goal."
Unlike his mentor and others in the first generation of top biotech executives, Mott has never treated patients in a hospital or isolated genes in a laboratory. But despite his lack of science training, he speaks easily and confidently about the workings of monoclonal antibodies and selective cytoprotective agents.
At the same time, Mott knows how to talk effectively to his former colleagues on Wall Street.