The incredible adventure of the Clozels and their Actelion

Jean-Paul and Martine Clozel founded the Swiss biotech group Actelion. Started in a garage, the group has grown so much over the years to be sold to Johnson & Johnson for $30bn. The Clozels are now embarking on a new business adventure: they have founded a startup armed with $1 billion in capital from J&J, to be listed in Zurich. Johnson & Johnson will have a 16% stake in the new firm, with an option to double it. Mr and Mrs Clozel, both 61 and both physicians – he is a cardiologist and she is a pediatrician – met as medical students in France in 1975. Afterwards, they both joined Roche in 1985 and ended up working on cardiovascular drugs. They left the company 12 years later, in 1997, disappointed by the R&D strategy, and founded Actelion, with a rented garage as their first laboratory. Shortly afterwards, they sold their house to fund the startup and started working on a therapy to restore the vascular endothelium. The following year, Roche decided to interrupt all the activities linked to cardiovascular research and licensed some investigational drugs on which the Clozels had focused to their startup. Since then, Actelion has been steadily growing and focusing on rare diseases, such as pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), for which it has launched Tracleer, which has become a global blockbuster and has made Actelion the leading biotech group in Europe. The Clozels went through hard times as well. In 2011, after a clinical-trial failure, Actelion’s investors tried to dismiss the couple replacing them with external management. However, the Clozels resisted and continued heading the group until last 26 January, when they announced Actelion had been acquired by Johnson & Johnson. (Source: WSJ)