TheStreet's biotech readers have spoken and Gold, who led Dendreon through a topsy-turvy FDA approval process for the prostate cancer therapy Provenge, garnered a commanding 52% of the votes in the Best Biotech CEO of the Year poll.
Runner-up was Leonard Bell of Alexion Pharmaceuticals (ALXN - Get Report), with 39% of the vote. Third place went to Neurocrine Biosciences (NBIX - Get Report) chief Kevin Gorman, with support from 9% of readers.Six hundred forty-two votes were cast overall for the Best Biotech CEO nominees, a respectable turnout but far below the 2,100 votes cast for the companion Worst Biotech CEO poll. Is that because my Best CEO nominees weren't all that inspiring, or perhaps readers are more motivated to cast votes against executives they despise? Nevertheless, Gold takes home the coveted Swanson Trophy, named in honor of Robert Swanson, Genentech's founding CEO. In many ways, Gold exemplifies the namesake of this award. Swanson co-founded Genentech at a time when the company's scientists were figuring out how to genetically re-engineer animal cells to produce therapeutic proteins aka the first "biotech" drugs. At Dendreon, Gold and his team pioneered the development of the first FDA-approved personalized immunotherapy treatment for prostate cancer. Provenge may pave the way one day for a host of new drugs that harness the power of a patient's own immune system to fight cancer or other diseases. TheStreet's past Best Biotech CEO winners were Human Genome Sciences' (HGSI) Thomas Watkins in 2009 and Myriad Genetics' (MYGN) Peter Meldrum in 2008. All three CEO nominees -- Bell, Gorman and Gold -- were deserving of the award this year but they were not the only biotech execs worthy of praise in 2010. Questcor Pharmaceuticals (QCOR) CEO Don Bailey could have easily made the finalists list for the tremendous job selling Acthar Gel, which in turn, has made shareholders very happy. Celgene (CELG - Get Report) CEO Robert Hugin deserves kudos for commanding the last true growth stock in the large-cap biotech group. Hats off to Orexigen Therapeutics (OREX - Get Report) CEO Michael Narachi for doing the impossible -- convincing an FDA advisory panel to vote positively on an obesity drug. It was a strong and overwhelmingly positive year clinically for Vertex Pharmaceuticals (VRTX - Get Report) and hepatitis C drug telaprevir, so congratulations to CEO Matt Emmens, who must share the adulation with former chief executive Joshua Boger.