Cetus: A Collision Course With Failure

Insiders say that the biotech firm got too big for its britches--while putting all of its eggs into one basket Biotechnology firm Cetus Corp., which more or less disappeared from sight in the wake of last month's $700 million takeover by its Emeryville, Calif., neighbor Chiron Corp., once seemed to have all the tools needed to succeed. But the company didn't survive--despite its talented scientists, deep pockets, and the prospect of a blockbuster product. And the factors that led to the ing

Sally Lehrman
Jan 19, 1992
Insiders say that the biotech firm got too big for its britches--while putting all of its eggs into one basket
Biotechnology firm Cetus Corp., which more or less disappeared from sight in the wake of last month's $700 million takeover by its Emeryville, Calif., neighbor Chiron Corp., once seemed to have all the tools needed to succeed.

But the company didn't survive--despite its talented scientists, deep pockets, and the prospect of a blockbuster product. And the factors that led to the inglorious fading away of this once-promising northern California firm could serve as a warning to other entrepreneurial hopefuls.

While former Cetus scientists and administrators interviewed for this article willingly describe a series of chronic problems besetting the company, they tend to agree that the fundamental flaw was Cetus' inclination to behave like a fully mature drug company instead of the adolescent it really was.

Many former top managers at...