Tributes are paid to 'warm and modest' biotechnology pioneer Geoff Cox

Biotechnology pioneer Dr Geoff Cox, who has died aged 77

Biotechnology pioneer Dr Geoff Cox, who has died aged 77 - Credit: Lenny DeRoma

Tributes are being paid to Dr Geoff Cox, a pioneering leader in the US biotechnology industry who grew up in Ipswich, after his death aged 77.

A beloved husband, father, grandfather, friend and mentor, he was married for 54 years to wife Kay.  

Geoff, who passed away after a short battle with brain cancer, oversaw approvals of a number of “orphan drugs”, medicines to treat rare diseases, which have changed the lives of thousands of patients.

After moving to the US, he retained strong links with Suffolk, and was a lifelong Ipswich Town supporter. 

He is remembered as "warm, sincere and modest" – and was loved by friends and family for his “hearty laugh and engaging smile.”

Geoff Cox pictured with wife Kay 

Geoff Cox pictured with wife Kay - Credit: Lenny DeRoma

Wife Kay said: "Many of his colleagues have attributed their success to him. One wrote after Geoff’s death “For me, he was a real gentleman, a kind and considerate man and a true professional."

Geoff was born in November 1943 in the village of Great Bentley.

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He attended Northgate Grammar School in Ipswich and then Birmingham University, where he took a BSc (hons) in biochemistry, before going on to do a PhD at the University of East Anglia in 1968. 

He then joined British Fermentation Products in Felixstowe as a manager, in charge of yeast production.

In 1986, Geoff met Henry Blair, the founder of Genzyme, and joined the company as managing director of UK operations, running its fine chemicals business in Haverhill.  

After two years, he moved to the US, to take responsibility for manufacturing operations at the US holding company, and he rose to become executive vice president of global operations. 

He and Kay settled in Boston and embraced the US way of life – and he became a supporter of the Red Sox and New England Patriots, as well as continuing his loyalty to ITFC. 

An expert in manufacturing technology, Geoff oversaw construction of Genzyme’s Allston Landing plant, which was completed in 1997, to produce Cerezyme, a leading orphan drug for the treatment of a rare genetic disorder, Type 1 Gaucher’s Disease. 

Geoff later went on to lead a number of other biotechnology companies. In 1997, he became chief executive officer of Aronex, a publicly-held company based in Woodlands, Texas.  

Then, in 2001, he became chief executive of Genzyme Transgenics (renamed GTC Biotherapeutics) in 2001, and moved back to Boston.  

Tributes are being paid to biotechnology pioneer Dr Geoff Cox, who grew up in Ipswich

Tributes are being paid to biotechnology pioneer Dr Geoff Cox, who grew up in Ipswich - Credit: Lenny DeRoma

He went on to become chairman of MassBio, the Massachusetts biotechnology industry association.

He also sat on the board of BIO, the national industry association. In 2014, he became interim-CEO of Vancouver-based QLT, and oversaw its acquisition by Aegerion two years later. 

After retiring to Florida, he continued to serve on the board of several biotechnology companies, including RAIR Health, which he founded with his son Steven. 

Geoff was known as a selfless manager, with a commitment to be honest, transparent and to be a mentor to all who knew him.  

One of his colleagues said he was prepared to go into battle for his team “even if he knew it wouldn’t likely turn out well”. 

Another wrote to Kay that he was a "fearless leader". He is also remembered for his ability to be the “grown-up in the room”, making him a valued board member.  

Geoff was completely devoted to his family, including his sister, sons and grandchildren in England and California.

Kay said: "Geoff was a loyal friend and we have remained connected to many in the region and in the Boston, Houston and Sarasota Cities, USA.

"As a family man, Geoff was a supportive father to our two sons, who he encouraged to step out of the box and follow their talents with his full support and belief in their success. As my husband, he told my father he would take care of me and did so for 54 years."

As a life-long Ipswich Town FC supporter, he watched games live from the US and went along to them when he could on visits to Suffolk.

A keen sportsman, he was physically active all his life and loved playing cricket, tennis or hockey with his sons and grandchildren. 

Kay said: "Geoff so enjoyed sport and exercise. As a family we took walking holidays in Yorkshire and camping in France.

"He trained and ran in the local marathon when he was 40, and until his death, we walked five miles a day."

Geoff is survived by wife Kay, their sons Steven and James and five grandchildren and his sister, Jill Cuff.