“Like the mythological Greek god Prometheus who gave mankind the precious gift of fire, we are dedicated to developing novel therapeutics that address urgent and unmet global healthcare needs for the new millennium. Our goal is to offer patients the choice of non-invasive therapeutic modalities to treat and prevent a broad range of common diseases that affect large populations at risk in both wealthy countries and the most impoverished communities.”
As we launch our new biotech start up, Prometheon Pharma, LLC, special thanks goes out to Phoebe Cade Miles, Richard Miles and Dorrie Hipschman of The Cade Museum Foundation, GAIN, GTEC and all the other organizers and sponsors of the 2011 2nd Annual Cade Prize for Innovation competition in which our entry had the good fortune and privilege of being included among the "Sweet Sixteen" semi-finalists this year (see attachment). We are humbled by the realization that if not for the fact that we submitted an entry for the Cade Prize competition, Prometheon Pharma, LLC would never have been launched at all. Also, I want to personally express a deep sense of gratitude to the late great Dr. Robert "Bob" Cade, the inventor of Gatorade who proceeded me by decades as a member of the Division of Nephrology at the UF College of Medicine, where I am the R. Glenn Davis Endowed Professor in Clinical and Translational Science. He has set a legacy that is a daunting and humbling experience to even attempt to carry forward. I had the good fortune of meeting Dr. Cade on the occasion of the commemoration of a plaque in his honor outside of Griffin Stadium during my first year at the University of Florida (2008). It was a crsip cold day and I remember that he was seated in his wheelchair with a wool blanket over his knees and a wool hat over his head. When I was introduced to him by the Dean of the College of Medicine, I had a sudden revelation that I was being afforded a singular opportunity to ask this luminary if the R&D that I was about to embark on, which would generate the major therapeutics in the Prometheon Pharma pipeline, was too ambitious. I was genuinely unsure whether I was venturing into treacherous waters where many a ship has been lost at sea. So, when he asked me what kind of research I was doing, I gave him a brief overview and then somewhat embarrassingly asked him if my research ideas were too ambitious. He gave me this whimsical smile and without hesitation said "Think big." We shook hands as I thanked him and I walked away with a sense of relief and a newfound confidence. I never met Bob again before his death. But his spirit seems to have taken up residence in my laboratory to give me encouragement, especially during times of doubt, hesitation or uncertainty. Maybe the tag line for Prometheon Pharma should just be "Think Big" instead of the reference to Greek mythology. But what can I say? I went to a four year liberal arts college in New England and studied Classics, which is to say I studied the entire cannon of modern western culture from the time of the ancient Greeks to the present day. I almost went to graduate school to get a PhD in philosophy. But that's another story...
I don't believe in coincidences or accidents. According to Sting (reference to former singer/bassist for the reggae-influenced rock band, The Police, now a successful solo artist) it's all about synchronicity. It's always a matter of being in the right place at the right time under the right conditions. So, here's how it happened. As a traditional academic clinician-scientist-educator (UF College of Medicine), I was writing a grant application for funding from the National Cancer Institute (NIH) for a February 7, 2011 deadline, which was in hindsight actually a poor use of my time because for a federal agency such as the NIH, the budget in the current economic climate is actually shrinking due to inflation such that no one I know, no matter how successful at getting NIH finding they have been in the past, has been able to get a grant application funded on the first round. To make matters worse, the new NIH policy is that if you get a score that is "not fundable," you now get only one chance at resubmission (it used to be 2-3 re-submissions on average to get a grant funded) and then if you are actually receive a funding award, you are counted among those few who scored within the single digit percentile cut-off. Otherwise, your grant is dead. Since the 1990's I have increasingly witnessed very senior and experienced academic researchers either struggling to get new NIH funding or having their existing grants prematurely "closed-out" after the end-of-year progress report. "Publish or perish," goes the old saying. Alas, I remember the days when the NIH and the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Department of Defense (DOD) were funding agencies that were the playground for scientists with interests in all kinds of esoterica. Those days are long past. Bottom line? Federal agencies such as the NIH are large bureaucratic entities that don't have a lot of money to support research and development. My grant application was assigned to a "Study Section" but was not even reviewed because "it's emphasis is too global and not within the purview of this Study Section." But never mind. Because as I was preparing the grant submission, I saw the call for submissions to participate in the 2011 Cade Prize for Innovation competition and I sent in my entry. And that has fundamentally opened up for me a whole new way of thinking about how innovation and creativity can be advanced in a completely different community outside of academia.
When I was pursuing a joint MD-PhD degree as a scholar of the Medical Scientist Training Program (NIH) in the mid-80's, scientists who went into industry were uniformly viewed by pure academicians as having been seduced by the Dark Side of the Force (reference to the iconic Star Wars Saga Episodes I-6). That view was eroded as pharmaceutical companies have stepped in to fund the expensive and large clinical trials that federal agencies no longer have the funds to support. Industry partners are embraced by scientists based in academia as important partners in the translational medicine enterprise. Arguably, the academic setting remains the setting for the most important and creative work being done on the discovery side (see attached pdf of my award-winning essay "On Being a Scientist"). "Necessity is the mother of all invention," as they say. And out of necessity a paradigm emerged--that of the private-public partnership (see article attached). I was fortunate to have been part of the team that successfully developed a partnership between the non-profit National Kidney Foundation of Singapore (NKFS) and private donors ranging from individual donors to companies and other charitable foundations such as the largest Buddhist Temple in Singapore. Approximately 30% of the entire population of Singapore donated some amount to the NKFS on a regular basis.
The private-public partnership is ideally suited as a funding and start up revenue model for Prometheon Pharma because the focus of our company is to develop affordable, safe, effective, self-administerable and non-invasive novel therapeutic product lines using proprietary transdermal drug delivery formulations and new classes of drugs in order to address common diseases and urgent and unmet therapeutic needs in both high-resource (developed countries) and low-resource (developing countries and the traditionally underserved). Our laboratory is currently based in an academic institution (UF College of Medicine). But Prometheon Pharma is seeking start up funding from both private and public sources. Our scope is to target multiple market segments using different business models to negotiate appropriate pricing with both developing countries and healthcare delivery systems in wealthy nations to achieve broad application and patient accessibility of our product lines in various public health care contexts. Our goal is to impact large populations and global markets while creating new jobs along the entire translational pipeline and fulfilling the “social mission” of closing the health disparities gap. All Prometheon Pharma inventions are protected by approved or provisional patent applications filed by the Office of Technology and Licensing of the University of Florida.
As a young company, we would benefit greatly from mentorship, advice and support from GAINnet members and Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn members who will have access to this blog. For investors, we also invite you to contact us for more information on our business plan or to answer any questions that you may have to help you decide whether our company is worth your return on investment. We invite constructive comments on how to improve all aspects of our research and commercialization efforts including the development of a strong business plan.
We like to think that Dr. Cade is an ex-officio member of our Advisory Board at least in spirit. We are also seeking additional members for our Advisory Board. Please nominate candidates including self-nomination by sending us a brief statement on the background and experiences of the nominee and provide contact information.
Stephen I. Hsu, MD, PhD
Prometheon Pharma, LLC
3005 SW 70th Lane
Gainesville, FL 32608
Tel: (352) 672-2091
FAX: (352) 381-1885
Website: www.prometheonpharma.com (under construction)