Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory has added another major-league bat to its commercialization lineup.
Charles Ryan, former senior vice president and chief intellectual property counsel at Forest Laboratories, is CSHL’s new general counsel, bringing a wealth of experience in patent law and partnering agreements to the cutting-edge R&D facility.
“I’m very excited about this opportunity,” Ryan told Innovate-LI. “Long Island is an incredible place to do science and to do business, and there’s no place on Long Island like Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory – not only where it is today, but where it’s going.”
Ryan’s appointment to the lab’s senior leadership team marks the latest science-capitalization step for the 125-year-old institution, which in September 2013 appointed venture capital veteran Teri Willey to head its Office of Technology Transfer and Business Development.
“We’re delighted that he’s joined us,” Willey said. “It’s wonderful to have somebody with his experience with new business ventures that partner business and academic environments.”
Ryan succeeds John Maroney, who is scheduled to retire as the lab’s general counsel March 20. Maroney leaves big business-development shoes to fill: Among other successes, he played an integral role in the creation of CSHL spinoff company OSI Pharmaceuticals – which Astella Pharma purchased in 2010 for $4 billion – and the Broad Hollow Bioscience Park, early-stage home to OSI and several other biotech startups.
“We were lucky to have John Maroney,” Willey noted. “Now, we’re fortunate to replace him with Charles Ryan. It’s a luxury to me to have general counsels who really understand what we’re trying to do.”
During his decade-plus at Forest Labs, Ryan oversaw several different company sites and managed over 750 employees. He led due-diligence efforts on several merger-and-acquisition opportunities and litigated numerous patent and trademark issues.
Prior to Forest Labs, Ryan served as chief operating officer of LAB 21, a life-sciences spinoff of The Collaborative Group, the Stony Brook-based biotech brainchild of Applied DNA founder James Hayward.
But it was his experiences at Forest Labs, which was acquired by Actavis in July 2014 for $28 billion, that made him the ideal choice to succeed Maroney and “continue the momentum we got when Teri Willey came on board,” noted Dagnia Zeidlickis, CSHL’s vice president of communications.
“Charles brings a wealth of experience in patent law,” Zeidlickis said. “He understands the pharmaceuticals industry, he understands the biotech sector and he understands startups.”
Ryan dubbed Maroney’s retirement a stroke of good luck in that it allows him to maintain his Long Island focus.
“If you look at the institutions we have here – Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Stony Brook University, Brookhaven National Laboratory, North Shore-LIJ, the Feinstein Institute – you see that very few places in the country emphasize education the way Long Island does,” he said. “And geographically, Long Island is one of the most beautiful places to live and work.”
Maroney’s swan song was also a bit of fortuitous timing: After Actavis purchased Forest Labs last summer, Ryan agreed to stay on for a transitional period that ended in December – just as Maroney announced he was stepping down.
“It was very fortunate for me that this role became available when it did,” Ryan said.
A resident of Laurel Hollow, Ryan earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from The College of Wooster, a Ph.D. in oral biology and pathology from Stony Brook University and a J.D. from Western New England University. He began his law career as an associate with Garden City firm Scully, Scott, Murphy & Presser.
Since 2012, he’s been a member of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Association and a member of the Advisory Board of the Center for Biotechnology, located at SBU.
These unique combinations of experience and education equal a different breed of general counsel, Zeidlickis noted, crucial to CSHL’s efforts to “bring the benefits of our research to the people.”
“He’s not a general counsel who’s going to be sitting in his office reviewing legal texts,” Zeidlickis said. “He’s going to be out there contributing.”
While excited about the CSHL opportunity, Ryan is aware of the regional challenges facing Long Island’s innovation economy.
“We still don’t have the public awareness and support required to become a true national biotechnology hub,” he said. “But I remain optimistic about Long Island’s future, particularly in the biosciences.
“People often point to taxes and the cost of living here as reasons why certain things haven’t happened, but if you look at Silicon Valley and other biotech corridors, these are not inexpensive places to live – and yet, they’re thriving,” Ryan added. “I’d really like to see some leadership on the state level addressing these issues and moving the needle in a meaningful way.”