Entreprenuership has been a long-standing component of the profession of pharmacy. Not only were many products in common use today invented by pharmacists, many drug companies and pharmacy wholesalers began as a single pharmacy then expanded into an entirely new branch of the industry. Of course, many drug store chains also had their origins as a single pharmacy. Entrepreneurs need inspiration and help, though; and effective entrepreneurs know how and where to obtain it. They have mentors, they find angel investors and incubators when necessary, and otherwise know the experts to tap and the potential sources for capital.
Ekins and Wood describe their endeavor to start small companies focused on rare and neglected diseases.1 They state that starting biotech or pharmaceutical companies has traditionally been thought to be based around a scientist, their technology platform, or from a product spun out from another company. These authors and entrepreneurs took a different approach and formed two small early stage companies after initially leveraging the perspective of a parent of a child with a life-threatening rare disease. Phoenix Nest was co-founded to work on treatments for Sanfilippo syndrome, a devastating neurogenerative disorder. The second company, Collaborations Pharmaceuticals Inc., was founded to address some of the other 7000 or so rare and various infectious diseases. In just over 3 years, they built up collaborations with leading scientists and acquired a Rare Disease Priority Review Voucher, which can be used or sold to larger companies for each potential drug/molecule. They pursued NIH Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) and Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant funding, essential for diseases with few patents and of little interest for venture capital; however, they secured angel investors at the right moments in time. To find patients for clinical trials, the authors discussed the need to have a global presence which can be assisted by rare disease foundations and global patient advocates.
The cited article concerns the founding of a company aimed to find treatment for rare diseases. Pharmacists can be involved in ventures like this one; but even if not, there are many lessons learned here for the types of investors, agencies, collaborators, funders, grant opportunities, hard work, and networking required for innovating a new concept or business.
Additional information about Entrepreneurship and Innovation can be found in Pharmacy Management: Essentials for All Practice Settings, 5e. If you or your institution subscribes to AccessPharmacy, use or create your MyAccess Profile to sign-in to Pharmacy Management: Essentials for All Practice Settings, 5e. If your institution does not provide access, ask your medical librarian about subscribing.
1Ekins S, Wood J. Incentives for starting small companies focused on rare and neglected diseases. Pharm Res. 2016;33:809-815.