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Best Biotech CEO of 2012: Your Vote Counts

BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- This year's nominees for Best Biotech CEO of 2012 all share something in common. Each of the four executives achieved great success this year, in part, by proving various naysayers -- analysts, investors and media (ahem) -- wrong.

I didn't set out choosing these finalists around a central theme. But as I thought about explaining why they all deserve kudos for a job well done this year, it occurred to me that each of these CEOs faced some significant doubts about their leadership ability or strategic decisions at some point in the past. Bio-pharma investors are well accustomed to disappointment and failure, so it's encouraging to find executives who can deliver on promises made.

This year's nominees for Best Biotech CEO are Tony Coles of Onyx Pharmaceuticals (ONXX), John Martin of Gilead Sciences (GILD - Get Report), Regeneron Pharmaceuticals' (REGN - Get Report) Leonard Schleifer and Sarepta Therapeutics' (SRPT - Get Report) Chris Garabedian.

One of these executives will win the Swanson Trophy, named in honor of Robert Swanson, Genentech's founding CEO. Past winners are Vertex Pharma's (VRTX) Matt Emmens and Pharmasset's Schaefer Price (2011), Dendreon's (DNDN) Mitch Gold (2010), Human Genome Sciences' Thomas Watkins (2009) and Myriad Genetics' (MYGN) Peter Meldrum (2008).

Similar to the Worst Biotech CEO of 2012, please read the following nominating summaries and vote for your favorite candidate in the interactive poll at the end of this story. Feel free to post comments if you believe a CEO deserving of acclaim was left out of the voting. I'll tally your votes and award the trophy at the end of the week.

Tony Coles, Onyx Pharmaceuticals:

Investors weren't in love with Coles' selection as CEO of Onyx in 2008. In a story I wrote about Coles that February, an institutional investor and an Onyx shareholder summed up his ambivalent feeling about the new CEO thusly:

"When I saw that Tony Coles was named Onyx's CEO, my first reaction was Tony who? Then I looked at the performance of NPS Pharmaceuticals during his tenure there and I got depressed."

Ouch.

Onyx was a one-drug company when Coles took over. While Nexavar was a commercial success in kidney and liver cancer, investors were frustrated by the company's joint venture with Bayer. Nexavar sales were growing but the dollars weren't flowing to Onyx's bottom line. The company was spending a lot of money but its pipeline was non-existent. Efforts to expand Nexavar into other cancer indications, most notably lung cancer, were failing.

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