Father who went to 'extraordinary measures' is commencement speaker

John Crowley, an American business and social entrepreneur and the subject of a new major motion picture, "Extraordinary Measures," will be the featured speaker at Penn State Lehigh Valley's Commencement ceremony, to be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, May 15, at Stabler Arena in Bethlehem, Pa.

Crowley is currently the president and CEO of Amicus Therapeutics, a 100-person publicly-held biopharmaceutical company working on the development of drugs to treat a range of human genetic diseases. His involvement in the biotech industry spans more than a decade and stems from the 1998 diagnosis of his two youngest children, Megan and Patrick, with Pompe disease: a rare and fatal neuromuscular disorder. Crowley embarked on his journey as an entrepreneur to find a treatment that would save his children's lives, and the lives of thousands of others, parlaying his personal struggles and determination into a series of highly successful biotech business ventures and keynote speeches.

Following their diagnosis in 1998, Megan and Patrick were given just months to live. Frustrated with the pace of Pompe research, and wanting to do whatever he and his family could to change the course of their children’s diagnosis, Crowley quit his job as a marketing director at Bristol-Myers Squibb. He then traveled the world over, competing against time as well as business, medical and scientific establishments that were slow to move and even slower to accept his hard charging determination. Grasping at one last hope, he helped to co-found a five-person start-up biotech company called Novazyme Pharmaceuticals, focused exclusively on developing a treatment for Pompe. In less than a year, the company went from $1 million in angel financing to $27 million in venture capital financing and was then acquired for nearly $200 million by Genzyme Corporation. On Jan. 9, 2003, Patrick and Megan began to receive an experimental enzyme therapy developed by Genzyme that has saved their lives. They are now in the sixth and seventh grades, respectively. They continue to fight the battle against Pompe one day at a time.

The film "Extraordinary Measures," inspired by the Crowley family's story, stars Brendan Fraser as John Crowley, Harrison Ford as Dr. Robert Stonehill, and Keri Russell as Crowley's wife, Aileen, and opens in theatres nationwide on Jan. 22. The movie was the first to go into production for CBS Films, and Ford also serves as executive producer.

The Crowley family journey is a remarkable story of perseverance, survival and a family’s commitment to do whatever it takes, against phenomenal odds, for your children. It is about courage, hope, learning and love. Crowley and his wife are currently writing a memoir about their experiences titled "Chasing Miracles: The Crowley Family Journey of Strength, Hope and Joy."

The story also has been chronicled in The Wall Street Journal, a Harvard Business School case study “Novazyme: A Father’s Love," The Today Show, and is the subject of a book by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Geeta Anand, "The Cure: How a Father Raised $100 Million - and Bucked the Medical Establishment - In a Quest to Save His Children."

For more information, contact university relations at 610-285-5011 or e-mail aag18@psu.edu.

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Last Updated November 18, 2010