By Julie Nixon
On Tuesday the 18th November we were very privileged to have Harry Stratford OBE present for the latest Edinburgh BioQuarter networking event. Harry was a founder of Shire plc, one of the United Kingdom's largest pharmaceutical businesses, and later he was a founder of ProStrakan based in Galashiels.
Harry told us how both companies based their business models on the “Speciality Pharma Model” (developing and commercialising drugs for the treatment of unmet therapeutic needs), in-licensing and developing products but also out-licensing those products they couldn’t market. Shire was founded in 1986 with a view to producing products for metabolic bone disease. Shire's initial products were calcium supplements (Calcichew-D3) for patients seeking to treat or prevent osteoporosis. Interestingly for an off patent drug, Calcichew in 2007 ranked 12th among branded drug products in the UK. This is an excellent example of how important a brand can be for a product’s success, and how investors can recoup their investment without the need for a patent.
Harry remained chief executive at Shire until 1994, leaving to start ProStrakan in 1995. Products were in-licensed for development for application in metabolic bone disease and dermatology. Harry was Chief Executive at ProStrakan until he became Executive Chairman in 2004; he was then Non-Executive Chairman from 2006 until he retired at the end of 2007. Japan's Kyowa Hakko Kirin acquired ProStrakan in 2011 for £292m.
Harry then spoke about the key lessons he learned as an entrepreneur. Sustainability for a business is key to success, and for that a company needs a great team and to know the potential of those products it in-licenses. Investor confidence is also key; the success of a company’s first product can go some way to securing investor confidence.
Later Harry was asked what value he brought to the companies; was it because he identified the right drugs with the potential to be developed, or did he just market the drugs better. Harry answered that it depended on the particular drug product, but he definitely played a factor in identifying the potential value for off patent calcium products that big pharma had not been interested in. Harry also credited Shire and Prostrakan’s ability to get products to market quicker than big pharma, being smaller companies they had quicker response times in decision making.
Carmel Reilly of Neurocentrx Pharma asked Harry if he would do things the same if he was starting again today. The answer was a resounding yes! The Speciality Pharma Model works!
Harry also stressed the importance of cash flow from out-licensing, and how selling on those products that are out-licensed and not core IP to the company can be a useful way of fund raising.
Harry now has no connection with either Shire or Prostrakan, although interestingly Prostrakan is run by his son. Harry however is last to know of any company developments!
Many thanks to Edinburgh BioQuarter and Howard Marriage for bringing us this super event.