BOSTON, Mass. ( TheStreet) --The winner of the Best Biotech CEO of the Year award goes to Human Genome Sciences' ( HGSI) chief executive Thomas Watkins -- with an asterisk. Watkins takes home the Swanson Trophy (named in honor of Robert Swanson, Genentech's founding CEO) for the wild success of Human Genome Sciences' lupus drug Benlysta. The positive results from two phase III studies in 2009 were a signal achievement for Human Genome Sciences and placed the company on a path toward its first blockbuster product. Now, about that asterisk. Since I'm in charge of doling out this award, I'm requesting -- no, make that ordering -- Watkins to share the Swanson Trophy with Dr. David Stump, Human Genome's head of research and development. Stump and his team of scientists deserve equal laurels for discovering the drug that would become Benlysta, and perhaps more importantly, for designing a unique clinical trial that finally beats lupus. Human Genome is one of the great biotech investment stories of 2009. The stock began the year around $2 and is finishing closer to $30. On that metric alone, Watkins is a worthy winner of Best Biotech CEO honors. Stump is a huge part of this success because he helped produce an in-house blockbuster drug -- something never before done at Human Genome. The company had been saddled with this black mark ever since the genomics bubble of the late 1990s, but it's now been removed. If Benlysta is approved next year, the drug will become the first new treatment for lupus in decades with the potential to generate $2-3 billion in global sales.
Bravo. Well done. Other biotech CEOs also merit praise for a job well done in 2009. Dendreon ( DNDN) CEO Mitch Gold's steadfast belief in the prostate cancer "vaccine" Provenge paid off handsomely this year. The company's stock price soared when the positive top-line results from the phase III study were announced in April and the presentation of the full Provenge study results in May was probably the most exciting and closely watched data presentation all year. Targacept ( TRGT) started the year as a broken stock and ended with a blockbuster partnership for its depression drug TC-5214 with AstraZeneca ( AZN - Get Report). CEO Don deBethizy never panicked. He didn't give away TC-5214 rights too soon, he raised money at the right time and he finally nailed a great deal for his company and shareholders. Medivation ( MDVN) CEO David Hung -- a.k.a. Mr. Deal Maker -- promised and delivered a partnership for his company's prostate cancer drug this year. The deal with Astellas in October came just a year after Hung negotiated a lucrative partnership for Medivation's Alzheimer's drug with Pfizer ( PFE). It wasn't a terribly inspiring year for big-cap biotechs, but Celgene ( CELG - Get Report) CEO Sol Barer deserves kudos for executing consistently through some rough economic conditions. -- Reported by Adam Feuerstein in Boston >>See our new stock quote page.