Janet Greeson — A Good Samaritan

Contributed by:

Kim Ribbink

NOTE: The content below contains the first few paragraphs of the printed article and the titles of the sidebars and boxes, if applicable.

company had come about from consulting with a doctor who asked her to write about an HIV drug, SP01A, one of the candidates in Samaritan’s pipeline. “I became so interested in the drug, that eventually I found myself pretty much running Steroidogenesis,” she says. The first thing she did upon taking the helm, was to change the same of the company to Samaritan Pharmaceuticals. Shortly after she contacted Dr. Vassilios Papadopoulos, who was then the head of the hormone divi sion at Georgetown University. She had met Dr. Papadopoulos at a conference and, over time, they became a trusted friends. He suggested she speak with researchers at the Tech and Transfer office at Georgetown, which was interested in spinning off a research and development unit or entering into a joint venture. “The partnership with Georgetown is how Samaritan came about; it was serendipitous,” Dr. Greeson notes. “It took about a year to finalize the contract. We agreed to give them a set amount of money to fund the scientists and the research lab. In return, all compounds discovered in the lab could be licensed to Samaritan. That’s how we built our pipeline.” Ultimately, though, it is the relationship with Dr. Papadopoulos that is the binding force with Dr. Greeson and Samaritan. When he took the role of director of the Research Institute at McGill University Health Centre, Samaritan transferred its research lab to McGill University. Samaritan has since grown exponentially from its early days when it was Steroidogene sis and a onedrug company. “I can’t imagine a company having all of its eggs in one basket,” Dr. Greeson says. “Now we have a pipeline of more than 300 drug candidates and are advancing about 20 compelling drugs.” Samaritan is focused on innovative thera peutics and has made progress in the fields of central nervous system diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease; cancer; cardiovascular disease; and infectious diseases, such as AIDS and hepatitis C. Among the leading drugs in the compa ny’s pipeline is an Alzheimer’s drug, Caprospinol (SP233), which has been issued an IND by the FDA in preparation for a Phase I study. Data presented by the compa ny from an in vivo proof of concept study demonstrated efficacy in the drug’s ability to dramatically decrease beta amyloid plaque in the brain, accompanied by a complete recov BY KIM RIBBINK s a trained psychologist and a counselor who has helped hundreds, if not thousands, of people deal with addic tion and emotional stresses, it’s not surprising that rela tionships are at the heart of everything Janet Greeson, Ph.D., does in business. And her innate ability to lis ten and assimilate information are integral to how she leads Samaritan Pharmaceuticals. Key to any good relationship is respectful, honest, and direct communication and Dr. Greeson has refined the art of communicating — both in how she senses what is being said and what is not is not being said. “I’m trained to listen, and I know how to interact with people, which has become intu itive for me as a psychologist,” she says. “I believe that 90% of communication is non verbal and being able to sense what’s happen ing or not happening has been an asset to me. This ability helps me lead Samaritan and eval uate relationships with other companies.” In 2000, Dr. Greeson became CEO of what was then Steroidogenesis Inhibitors International, a name she found impossible to warm to. Dr. Greeson’s involvement with the an EAR the pulse to A 0408 Layout FINAL MW 3/21/08 11:45 AM Page 74 75 PharmaVOICE Ap r i l 2 008 ery of memory back to baseline as shown in a Morris water maze task, a popular task in behavioral neuroscience that assesses learning and memory. “The ability to restore memory func tion would be a dramatic upturn for Alzheimer’s patients and their families,” Dr. Greeson says. Further along in the pipeline is an oral HIV entry inhibitor, SP01A, which creates a firewall around healthy cells that prevents HIV entry. Other molecules in the HIV pipeline include SP10 and SP03, also geared to pre venting viral entry into healthy cells. Also in early stages is a cardiovascular drug that, in animal studies, demonstrates an ability to remove plaque from the arteries in three to five days. If this drug were to come to market it could limit the need for openheart surgery and stents, Dr. Greeson surmises. While the pipeline appears diverse, Dr. Greeson says there is a common denominator running through the programs. “Most of our technology is related to cholesterol, so while the research looks unre lated, underneath about 80% of our com pounds are connected to cholesterol in some way,” she says. (Please see the box on this page for more information about Samaritan’s pipeline.) Growing Confidence From early on Dr. Greeson has believed that with enough determination and perse verance anything can be accomplished. That fierce sense of selfpossession was fos tered by her father, who constantly told her that she could do anything she set her mind to, and her mother, whose hard work and determined attitude demonstrated just what is possible. “My father persuaded my mother to take a test to be a prison corrections officer and she did so; eventually, she became the warden of a New York state prison,” Dr. Greeson says. “She was an inspiration to me.” Dr. Greeson grew up in the Brooklyn housing projects, where she developed a fasci nation for people, eagerly listening to their problems. “People have always intrigued me, which led to my becoming a psychologist,” she says. Her background in psychology has been hugely influential in helping her to navigate every night and first thing in the morning for a month. “He said when a person sleeps the brain figures out how to achieve those goals, and I believe it; I swear by it; I’ve practiced this throughout my life,” she says. “But it’s impos sible to go after what you want if you don’t know what that is. My experience in clinical practice has taught me that most people know what they don’t want, not what they do want; and I rarely saw a person in treatment that knew what they really wanted.” Broad Endeavors Practicing as a clinical psychologist and establishing treatment programs for addicts has given Dr. Greeson insights into drivers behind selfdestructive behavior and thereby ways to tackle them, all of which help in managing difficult situations in any setting. Beyond her work, both as a clinical psy chologist and today as head of Samaritan, Dr. Greeson believes strongly in giving back to the community. She has helped design addiction programs for Mother Teresa in Rome. She also served as the U.S. congressional nominee for Nevada in 1994. She also finds time to write, having pub lished several selfhelp books, one on eating disorders, titled It’s Not What You Are Eat JANET Greeson life and career. Dr. Greeson says she learned early on that it’s important to define oneself before someone else does, and that’s particu larly true for women in business. “People who do well in life speak well of themselves to themselves,” she says. In creating her self image, she crafted a mantra, one that she still relies on today: “I’m a loving, caring, abundant, strong person; I love to help people; I’m a contributor; and I have a fire in my heart to make a difference.” Equally, it is important to be conscious of the fact that in business perception is king. “In today’s world where contracts often are negotiated by phone, it’s hard for business associates to appreciate the essence of one another, so it’s important to project and com municate who we are and what we believe in,” Dr. Greeson says. With a indefatigable attitude and tremen dous optimism, Dr. Greeson believes any thing is possible. She still relies on a motiva tional lesson learned in graduate school to get her through tough spots. A professor asked the class to write down 10 things they wanted to achieve in life. He then instructed the students to read their lists In the Pipeline DISCOVERY PRECLINICAL PHASE I PHASE II PHASE III INFECTION DISEASES Oral HIV Entry Inhibitor (SP01A) Oral HIV Entry Inhibitor (SP03) Oral HIV Drug (SP10) Oral Hepatitis C Drug (SP30) ALZHEIMER’S/CNS DISEASES Alzheimer’s Drug Caprospinol (SP233) Alzheimer’s Drug (SP04) Alzheimer’s Drug (SP08) Non Embryonic Stem Cell Therapy (SPsc4) Non Embryonic Stem Cell Therapy (SPsc7) CANCER Breast Cancer Diagnostic Epithelial Cell Cancer (SP4300) CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE Heart Disease/Cholesterol Drug (SP1000) HIGH CORTISOL DISEASE Cushing’s Syndrome Drug (SP6300) DRUGRECEIVES IND FROMFDA With the will to overcome any hurdle and a lucrative pipeline to back up her determination to help others, Dr. Janet Greeson is creating an aura of hope and possibility at biopharma company Samaritan Pharmaceuticals. 0408 Layout FINAL MW 3/21/08 11:45 AM Page 75 76 Ap r i l 2008 PharmaVOICE ing, It’s What’s Eating You, and she prepar ing her next book, this time on underdog entrepreneurs, called Never, Never Underes timate the Hunger of an Underdog. A believer in mentorship — having drawn extensively from the guidance of people early in her life — Dr. Greeson inspires those around her to reach for the stars. “I started a group called Superwoman’s Anonymous,” she says. “There were about 30 of us in the group. Everyone of us went on to actualize our dreams, which demonstrates the power and support of groups.” An advocate for education, Dr. Greeson urges all she comes into contact with — young and old — to further their education. Today at Samaritan, a central mission for Dr. Greeson is the Samaritan Innovative Sci ence Foundation (SISF), which is a nonprofit organization founded by her in 2003. SISF’s goals are to help seriously ill children world wide and to promote science education to middle and high school students. “In the United States, education and excitement about science have diminished,” she says. To counter this waning interest, Dr. Gree son’s concept is to field a biofuture bus, akin to the one on the popular TV show CSI, com plete with an elaborate lab and equipment. “The bus would travel from school to school, and kids could learn experientially to do their own DNA testing, fingerprinting, and forensic science experiments,” she says. The need to reinvigorate a love for science is pressing, Dr. Greeson believes, especially because of the huge drop in the number of students who are pursuing science education in the United States. “Innovation is our future as well as the future of our children,” she says. “Statistical studies show that if we appeal to children and teenagers and get them interested in science then the percentages of those going to school for science degrees increases.” The two other central goals of SISF are to develop drugs for orphan indications, usually children’s diseases, and to give free or afford able treatments to children and mothers who have HIV. “If Samaritan is ever taken over by a major pharmaceutical company, I more than likely will devote 100% of my time to SISF,” Dr. Greeson says. Making it Happen Running a company involves both risk and reward. One of the largest risks revolves around funding. “Money has become one of the biggest worries in the biopharma industry today,” Dr. Greeson contends. “We are raising money but it’s a tremendous challenge. Everyone I talk to agrees that this has been a particularly chal lenging time.” One bright spot is the potential donation of What drives me is the feeling of accomplishment that comes from creating something and seeing it flourish.It’s exciting to find an unmet need and fill it. “ 0408 Layout FINAL 3/24/08 4:03 PM Page 76 When great creative makes all the difference… 2008, The Hal Lewis Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved. HLGNBD800 follow the sun Compelling creative often starts, not with data, but by stopping readers with an idea close to their professional hearts. Here, we used the emotional relationship shared by every member of the neonatal intensive care team as the starting point of an extraordinary story. We can grow this kind of greatness for your brand. Visit hlg.com or contact Maureen Mangiavas at 215.832.0178 to find out how.

JANET Greeson a $10 million bond, which would go a long way toward helping the company continue its mission to bring lifesaving drugs to the world. But Dr. Greeson has learned not to rely on venture capital for raising money, and she and her team have found innovative ways to keep Samaritan in the black. Once again, Dr. Greeson’s relationship building skills have proven dividends. Over the years at various industry conferences, Dr. Gree son had met and gotten to know Dr. Christos Dakas, whose expertise is in Greek and Euro pean markets “Eventually we created a licensing pro gram in the region, after Dr. Dakas joined Samaritan,” she says. With Dr. Dakas as managing director of Samaritan Europe/inlicensing, a unit spear headed by he and Eugene Boyle, chief finan cial officer, business development, the compa ny has entered into strategic collaborative relationships with other pharmaceutical com panies to commercialize branded approved prescription products in selected niche terri tories, such as Greece, Albania, Bosnia, Bul garia, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Egypt, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slo vakia, Syria, Turkey, and Yugoslavia. Samaritan uses its expertise to register approved drugs with regulatory agencies in the different countries where it holds the licensing rights, then, upon regulatory approval, it distributes, markets, and sells these products. Currently, Samaritan has in licensed the rights to sell 14 drugs, including: Amphocil from Three Rivers Pharmaceuti cals; Elaprase from Shire Pharmaceuticals; Infasurf from Ony; Mepivamol, Methadone, Morphine Sulphate, Naloxone, Naltrexone, and Oramorph from Molteni Pharmaceuti cals; and Rapydan from EUSA. “We’ve just started this inlicensing pro gram in Eastern Europe, and it’s already paying dividends,” Dr. Greeson says. “We have an extremely small burn rate for a biotech; most biotechs burn $1 million a month, we burn about $2.5 million to $3 million a year, and we have a program that we call Making Every Dollar Count. We had more than $1 million last year in revenue and are expecting more than $5 million this year. This revenue should allow us to be selfsustaining, so we won’t have to keep going to the street to raise money.” The company also keeps its costs down by using its inhouse experts — from writing its own regulatory reports and annual filings to handling all of its FDA filings and protocols — from its drug development team. Entrepreneurial by nature, Dr. Greeson has a knack for building success out of very little. She has initiated numerous treatment centers, such as Freedom House, a halfway house in Florida that provides shelter for up to 50 women at a time and offers treatment for substance abuse or eating disorders. She started a hospital inpatient program on her own in Orlando, Fla., for the treatment of depression, anxiety, and eating disorders, which she built into 17 hospital inpatient programs nationwide; eventually she folded these into Columbia HCA. Today Dr. Greeson continues to listen, learn, and apply the skills that have made her a suc cessful counselor and founder of care programs to developing drugs that make a significant dif ference to people’s lives — from Alzheimer’s to HIV to cardiovascular treatments. “What drives me is the feeling of accom plishment that comes from creating some thing and seeing it flourish,” she says. “It’s exciting to find an unmet need and fill it.” # PharmaVOICE welcomes comments about this article.Email us at feedback@pharmavoice.com. DR. JANET GREESON — RESUME A Helping Hand 2000 PRESENT. Founder,CEO,and President, Samaritan Pharmaceuticals Inc., Las Vegas 1996 PRESENT. Founder,Board of Directors, Samaritan Pharmaceuticals Inc., Las Vegas 1981 2001. Clinical Psychologist, Private Practice; Continues to see occasional patients 1999 2000.Cato Research,Durham,N.C.; Instrumental in developing FDA investigational brochure and FDA annual reports for HIV drug IND 52,663 1999.AIDS Research Alliance,West Hollywood,Calif; Spearheaded and coordinated Phase II clinical trial for HIV drug SP01A for HIV drug resistance indication 1999.Analytical Solutions, Calif; Developed protocol for a pharmacokinetic and safety study of IND 52,663 for HIV infected patients 1993 1995. Addictions Consultant to numerous HealthCare Corps., Calif., Nev., Fla., Minn. 1994.U.S.Congressional Nominee for the State of Nevada 1986 1993.Founder,Program Developer and Clinical Director of “Janet Greeson’s A Place For Us”National Psychiatric Clinics, Orlando,Fla., and nationwide 1986 1988.Founder and Clinical Developer of Freedom Walk Inc., A Residential Continuum Care, Orlando,Fla. 1985 Designed,developed,and implemented clinical eating disorder clinics for Brookwood Recovery Lodges,Birmingham,Ala. 1983 1985.Clinical Psychologist, Developer of Clinical “Skid Row”Treatment Program, Metropolitan Alcohol Council of Orlando,Fla. 1983 Regional Coordinator of the Nancy Reagan “Secretarial Initiative in Teenage Alcohol Abuse,”Dept.of Health and Human Services 1982 1986 Clinical Director of ARS,Navy Alcohol Rehabilitation Service, Orlando,Fla. 1981 1982. Associate Professor, Rollins College Graduate Program,Winter Park, Fla. 1979 1982. Regional Program Director, Navy Alcohol Safety Action Prevention Program, Orlando,Fla., under the University of West Florida 1978 1985. Executive Director, Board of Directors for Overeaters Anonymous,Los Angeles 1975 1979. FacilitatorCoordinator, Alcohol Rehabilitation Department of Navy,Orlando,Fla. EDUCATION 1987.Ph.D.,Clinical Psychology,Columbia Pacific University, Mill Valley, Calif. 1979. M.A., Clinical Psychology,Rollins College, Orlando,Fla. 1978.B.A., Psychology,University of Central Florida, Orlando,Fla. 0408 Layout PROOFS 3/25/08 11:42 AM Page 78

Posted in:

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to post a Comment.

FEEDBACK