Trendsetters - June 2004
Change of Heart
In 1990, consulting for Miami-based drug maker Ivax, Dr. Lawrence Solomon made as much in stock options as he did in his full-time Miami Beach cardiology practice.
He was hooked. He kept up his practice but continued in drug development for Ivax and later Fort Lauderdale-based Andrx.
DR. LAWRENCE SOLOMON
Founder, Chairman, CEO / SoLapharm
Fort LauderdaleInterests: Stock picking, crossword puzzles.Recommended reading: Paul Johnson's "A History of the American People".Home: Boca Raton.Getaway: His Miami Beach apartment.Now he has his own venture, SoLapharm. SoLapharm creates products with modest development costs by using off-patent or soon-to-be off-patent drugs. SoLapharm may group them together in a novel way or find new methods to use them. Targeting a niche is a smart approach for a startup. And it's potentially lucrative. New York-based Forest Laboratories found a niche profiting from the U.S. licensing rights for foreign drug discoveries.
Solomon raised $3 million from investors last year and wants to raise more. Investors buy a braintrust: Solomon, COO David Lucking (a Noven Pharmaceuticals veteran), Executive VP for pharmaceutical development Allan Kaplan (formerly Schering Plough/Key's vice president of research, developing new products), and Executive Directors Elliot Hahn (Andrx co-founder), Nigel Norton (founder of what became England's largest generic drug company) and Martin Zeiger (former general counsel at Barr Labs).
Solomon was raised in Great Neck, N.Y., on Long Island and attended the University of Michigan and New York Medical College before setting out for Miami Beach in 1985. He gave up his full-time practice in 2001 to found SoLapharm. The practice was "getting routine, let's say," and he thought he could do more for people with a drug company. Now a Boca Raton resident, he's happy with his new career after a quarter-century in medicine. "You get to live twice," says Solomon, 53. "If you're a professional athlete, 25 years is enough time to go into a beer distributorship."
Fighting Tooth and Nail
Out of college, marketer Randy Scott joined Procter & Gamble to work on the Folgers coffee brand. Then he marketed for LensCrafters and later for Easy Spirit.
CEO / NovaMin Technology
AlachuaFloss daily? "We'll say periodically ... much to the chagrin of my hygienist."Loyal to Oravive: "I can assure you everybody around here brushes every day with it."Family: Wife, Sally, and three sons.If all goes as he hopes, his latest charge, NovaMin, will be a household name too, as ubiquitous as fluoride. NovaMin is a patented bioceramic developed by NovaMin Chief Technology Officer Dave Greenspan and University of Maryland researchers. Loaded with phosphorous-calcium ions, NovaMin revitalizes teeth, replacing mineral loss faster than fluoride, reduces sensitivity, combats gingivitis and cleans and whitens.
With people living longer, and with cavities on the rise because of poor nutrition, Scott figures NovaMin's time is nigh.
He wants to penetrate dentist offices with professionally administered treatments, proving NovaMin to dentists.
And he's pushing NovaMin to toothpaste companies as an ingredient. "Ultimately, what we'd like to see is a 'Crest with NovaMin,' a 'Colgate with NovaMin,' an 'AquaFresh with NovaMin,' " he says.
The first products for use in dental offices went out earlier this year, and a Chinese toothpaste maker is moving to a broad rollout there, making NovaMin a rare U.S. exporter to China.
In the U.S., rather than deal with requests for samples from investors and others, NovaMin set up a website to sell a NovaMin toothpaste, Oravive. The website has given the 13-employee company a dash of revenues, though Scott hastens to say, "it's not like it's eBay or something."
The 41-year-old, born in Tennessee and raised in Jacksonville, says NovaMin is a welcome step up in his career from big-name brands.
"Traditionally in consumer goods whoever has the deepest pockets wins," Scott says. "This is much better for me. You're really making a difference for people. This is really a much more meaningful challenge."
Fungus Among Us
Mark Emalfarb wrestled in college in Iowa in the 150-pound class. His speech, however, is peppered with analogies to a host of sports: "We hit doubles, singles and triples all day long, but we're swinging for the fences." And he has entrepreneurial chatter down cold: "Quicker, faster, cheaper."
Founder, CEO / Dyadic International
JupiterQuote: "This is the biggest part of my life other than my family."Family: Wife, Lisa; daughters, Hailey, 9, and Ashley, 19 -- "as different from each other as a bacteria and a fungus."Diversion: Golf, 13 handicap.Unique to him, however, is this line: "Jeans to genes" -- shorthand for the progression of his firm, Dyadic International. At 24, Emalfarb peddled pumice to denim companies. Supplying stones for stone-washed jeans led to selling enzymes to achieve the same effect. That led to finding a fungus he could use as a host for the DNA that generated the enzymes that softened the denim.
Emalfarb believes the fungus his scientists found can produce proteins for pharmaceuticals. Proteins are the grail of drug development, but the cost of producing enough of a protein from natural sources -- whether a jellyfish, the human body or tropical tree -- can stifle discovery and treatment. Emalfarb's convinced some venture capital firms he's got something. And Emalfarb convinced Dr. Richard Lerner, president of Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., to sign on as chair of his company's scientific advisory committee.
Meanwhile, enzymes created from the various genes inserted into the Dyadic fungus, "genes into proteins," are used in paper manufacturing, feed production and separating corn into ethanol, alcohol and syrup. Other industrial uses will come, he says. "It's not just pharma," he says. "Everybody thinks pharma, pharma, pharma, pharma."
Emalfarb, 49, won't disclose annual revenue, but he has some patter on the subject. His isn't a "cure-cancer-and-go-broke" company, he says. "It's a biotech company with revenues, which is unusual."