by Sonja Carberry
Investor’s Business Daily
March 24, 2015, 01:43 PM ET
Medical leaps benefit from a business push. How the disciplines work hand in hand to bring breakthroughs to light:
• Stay curious. “It is only by immersing yourself in a field in a very deep way that you can spot opportunities,” said Gil Amelio.
The former Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) CEO also led National Semiconductor in the early 1990s and holds 17 patents.
In the 1970s, he co-invented the charge-coupled device technology that’s used in scanners, digital cameras and the Hubble Space Telescope.
He’s now delving into the pharmaceutical sector as a board member of Galectin Therapeutics (NASDAQ:GALT).
“I like to be involved with companies that make important contributions,” Amelio told IBD.
• Aim high. Galectin is taking on a type of cirrhosis called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), a disease that affect as many as 15 million Americans, including kids.
James Czirr, Galectin executive chairman, calls NASH a silent killer: “The disease is asymptomatic until it manifests itself as fibrosis.”
That fibrosis causes damage that has been remedied only through liver transplants, which at a rate of 6,300 a year merely scratch the surface of patients in need of a treatment or cure. “We have the potential for a drug that deals with a phenomenally dangerous and deadly disease,” Amelio said.
• Stick with it. Galectin’s researchers used an innocuous source material — apple peels — to derive a carbohydrate drug that has shown promise in phase one trials. The firm, founded in 2000, and public as of 2012, is now entering the clinical trial phase with the medication.
“We’ve been walking in faith for a long time here,” said Czirr, who previously worked with a developer of anti-cancer drugs.
• Build bench strength. Galectin’s 11-member board is a balance of medical and corporate expertise. Peter Traber, the CEO, is a gastroenterologist and president emeritus of Baylor College of Medicine, where he was CEO until 2008.
PayPal alum Rod Martin joined Galectin’s board in 2009. He’d served as senior adviser to PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel through the payment giant’s startup, IPO and acquisition by eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY).
“We have an incredibly good team of people,” Amelio said.
• Spread the word. While scientific advances occupy center stage, people are who shine the light.
“Every time I’ve started a company and made it prosper, the road to success has been opened and guided by prior relationships,” said Eugene Anton, CEO of NuVascular Technologies. He was mentoring budding entrepreneurs when he was introduced to the scientists behind NuVascular Technologies.
“The people there were researchers, so they didn’t really have the experience to bring their technology to market,” he said.
Their nanotechnology-enabled devices, developed over 10 years with funding from the National Institutes of Health, fight arterial, heart and kidney diseases.
• Engage. Anton enjoys making connections. While flying home for business once, he offered the center armrest to the young man sitting next to him.
“It turned out that his father and uncle are higher-ups in the Indian government and in the medical field,” Anton said. “The man’s uncle runs some hospitals that could use our medical devices.”
Stay open to serendipity.
“Many people don’t realize that the key to their next success could be sitting next to them,” Anton said. “The point is that being open and curious about what other people are up to can create and enrich opportunities for success.”
— Editor’s Note: this story originally appeared in the print and online editions of Investor’s Business Daily.