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New at the top: Eric I. Richman of PharmAthene

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Monday, June 21, 2010

There are people who suffer from diseases for which there is no cure. Throughout my career, I have found it very gratifying to launch products that answer unmet medical needs.

I grew up with a strong interest in science. After high school, I attended a seven-year medical program in New York to become a primary-care physician. I loved the academics, but when I started clinical rotations, I realized that I didn't want to be a doctor. I liked science more than patient management.

I wondered how I could become a doctor without practicing medicine. I decided to pursue the business of science. I left the medical program to get a business education and then started to look for jobs that combined science and business.

I went to work at MedImmune, a vaccine company instrumental in starting many of the biotech successes in the Washington area.

The only nonscientist in the company, I was responsible for putting a business plan together. I worked in purchasing, human resources, investor relations, business development, strategic planning and finance. It was a great learning opportunity.

It was an exciting time of growth. I helped the organization launch important products that addressed unmet medical needs in transplantation, medicine and premature infants.

When there became international needs, I started the company's international business. I established relationships with foreign distributors and worked with laboratories to launch our products abroad.

There were many times that I met with neonatologists at hospitals and centers to prepare for a product launch. The beds were filled with kids who were suffering from a respiratory virus. There was no therapy or treatment available. After launching our treatment product, we would go back to these places and the beds would be empty. The kids had been treated.

Preventing children from getting this devastating disease brought a real sense of accomplishment and was a reminder of why I was so interested in this field.

That ties right in with PharmAthene. It decided to start a biodefense business to address the unmet medical needs and deficiencies of our country to defend citizens and the military in the event of a biological attack.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, I came to understand the need for better medical countermeasures for bioterrorism.

When I started at PharmAthene, I was in business development. I was able to select products that met the needs of the government. Those products and technologies are part of our developing portfolio.

The biggest challenge has been the absence of a commercial market for these products. In biotech, you create products you hope people will use. In biodefense, you develop products you hope no one will need. It's more like a defense company than a pharmaceutical one.

My vision is that PharmAthene will be a leader in biodefense and produce meaningful products that will protect U.S. citizens.

--Interview with Vanessa Mizell

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