Recently, I had the pleasure of participating in a roundtable, “The IPO Age: Onward and Upward,” to review how the recent spate of biotech IPOs belies the earlier struggle to finance trials and product development. I was joined by fellow biotech CEOs, Jeff Abbey of Argos and Scott Koenig of MacroGenics, for an engaging and timely conversation that was featured on BioCentury TV. If you haven’t had the opportunity to watch yet, please check it out here.
To build upon this robust discussion, I wanted to address a few points that didn’t make it off the cutting room floor, as well as insights I gleaned from the experience.
Capital fuels our industry.
Scientific advances are no longer reliably or routinely coming from underfunded NIH or academic labs or from Big Pharma. Rather, innovation in our industry stems from Esperion—and companies like Esperion—that take risks, seek out new and often under-served patient populations and persevere to drive developments forward. Without capital to fuel these advances, our industry will stagnate and there will be no new therapeutic options for those in need of treatment. The continuity of this innovation cycle is essential if our industry is to continue to produce cutting-edge, life-changing therapies.
Drug development is a team sport. And we have an amazing one.
When listening to the challenges faced by the other panel members, I was struck by how fortunate Esperion has been, and how Esperion wouldn’t be where it is today without the contributions of every single one of my current and former colleagues. Much of our success can be attributed to the fact that a great deal of the ‘new’ Esperion is made up of ‘original’ Esperion team members – a group with a proven track record, existing trust and vast understanding of the hypercholesterolemia therapeutic space. In addition to this solid foundation, we have added extremely skilled colleagues from around the country whose specific expertise complements that of the existing team. With this immensely talented group in place, we will continue to drive toward our mission of developing drugs to treat and prevent cardiometabolic diseases.
Adapt or fail.
Persistence in biotech is critical. There are times – more often than not – when things don’t go your way, and people and companies have to adjust to meet their goals.
One specific instance comes to mind when the original Esperion was shut down in 2007 in following the torcetrapib phase 3 clinical trial failure and the subsequent decision by Pfizer to completely exit cardiovascular research and development. My colleague Roger Newton and a very small, focused group of scientists and drug developers saw an opportunity in what was otherwise a debilitating layoff. Over the course of a year, Roger and the team prevailed upon Pfizer to sell them back many of the original Esperion assets, attracted new investors, and re-started Esperion to pursue the development of ETC-1002. In just six short years, Esperion colleagues adjusted from being a part of Pfizer, to a start-up, and now to a public clinical-stage company on the cusp of completing our ETC-1002 Phase 2b program.
As Charles Darwin is often quoted as saying, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but rather the one most adaptable to change.” And adapt we will within the “new” Esperion.