Experience of healthcare accumulated over the course of generations
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The way in which Gurnet Point approaches its investing is defined by its breadth of knowledge and experience of healthcare and biopharmaceuticals. This comes not just from its team's many years of involvement in the field, but also from the Bertarelli family's experience of leading Serono, which, over the course of three generations, they grew from a small pharmaceutical company into one of the world's largest biotech companies.
Founded in 1906 in Italy, and led from 1935 by Pietro Bertarelli, Serono’s landmark year was 1949, when it purified gonadotropin, a hormone that promotes the stimulation of the ovaries to produce multiple follicles, and this in turn resulting in a fertility-enhancing drug called Pergonal®. Improved and enhanced in later decades, Pergonal became the platform for the international expansion of Serono led by Fabio Bertarelli, who became Chief Executive in 1965. In 1974, he moved the company to Geneva, Switzerland and Serono then grew internationally, including a U.S. subsidiary, Serono Laboratories, in Boston, to become a leading player in the new area of reproductive health.
In 1996, Ernesto Bertarelli succeeded his father as the head of the company and drove forward its research in biotechnology. Serono went onto enjoy a string of clinical and commercial successes throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s, including Rebif®, a recombinant form of beta interferon used to treat multiple sclerosis. Rebif® went head-to-head in trials conducted by Serono against the then market leader, Biogen's Avonex®, and succeeded in breaking its American orphan drug exclusivity.
During Ernesto Bertarelli's tenure as CEO, the company's revenues, and profits grew substantially, with the company expanding to operate in over 40 countries, with its products sold in over 90. In response to this commanding growth, in 2000 Ernesto oversaw the quotation of the company's shares on the New York Stock Exchange. In 2007, the company was acquired by Merck to form Merck Serono.
Following the sale, Ernesto Bertarelli established Waypoint Capital, which has continued his focus on the healthcare industry. As well as having established Gurnet Point Capital, Waypoint is a major investor in a global allergy immunotherapy company, as well as one of Europe's leading, pan-European medical service providers, specializing in diagnostics investigations, clinical laboratories and cancer treatment services. It is also an investor in one of the world’s leading producers of medical diagnostic systems and a world leader in dedicated MRI.
Away from business, the Bertarelli family, through their Foundation, has established The Bertarelli Program in Translational Neuroscience and Neuroengineering, a joint research and education program between Harvard Medical School and the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne. Launched in 2010, teams of scientists are addressing some of the most important issues in medical neuroscience; issues that once solved, will have life-changing outcomes for patients. Its focus is not just on initiating research, but also on establishing cross-border and cross-institution working communities, within which knowledge can be better shared. In 2013, the Bertarellis and other partners bought back their former headquarters’ building in Geneva and created Campus Biotech, a global center for neuroscience research.