Day in the Life of a CEO in a Pharma Startup—Jim New, Camber Neurotherapeutics

Published: May 13, 2015

A Typical Day in the Life of a CEO in a Pharma Startup—Jim New, CEO
May 12, 2015
By Riley McDermid, Breaking News Sr. Editor

Rochester, N.Y.-based startup Camber Neurotherapeutics was formed to commercialize a group of novel small molecule therapeutics which have displayed exceptional potency in preclinical models for the treatment of memory and cognitive disorders resulting from neuroinflammatory processes.

The company is led by Founder, Chairman and CEO Jim New, whose industry experience spans the science and business elements of commercial pharmaceutical operations on both the branded and generic sides of the business. After eight years of basic research experience as a medicinal chemist, he moved into product licensing and business development functions, and from there progressed into Mergers and Acquisitions. Collectively, he has worked at Bristol-Myers Squibb Company , GlaxoSmithKline , Pfizer Inc. and Novartis AG for over a period of 21 years.

In 2002, he was co-founder of Abrika Pharmaceuticals, a generic drug company specializing in controlled-release products, which was acquired by Actavis in 2007. Since 2007, Jim has expanded his biotech experience by being CEO of Lifecycle Pharma (now known as Veloxis Pharmaceuticals A/S, AIKO Biotech and most recently Neurotrope Biosciences. He has a B.A. in biology from SUNY Geneseo, a M.S. in biochemistry from the University of Maine at Orono, a Ph.D. in Medicinal Chemistry from SUNY Buffalo, and a M.B.A. from Columbia.

We chatted with Jim about what his day looks like shepherding a scrappy new startup through biotech’s increasingly interesting landscape.

1. How does your typical day begin?

You start-out with your morning coffee, beating yourself up for not completing your To-Do list from the previous day. Things don’t advance unless you’re completely committed. You need to stay on point and work the plan. Camber NeuroTherapeutics has just kicked-off its Round A of raising capital from qualified, private investors. You have to deal with such a diverse constituency in this process that involves lawyers (yours and theirs), really smart people – and the polar opposite, mildly curious non-players, masters-of-the-universe, and the humanists who want to elevate the stage of human evolution in their lifetime, that you find yourself constantly changing skins to match-up with the concerns and issues of the other party.

2. What does that process usually entail?

Refining the pitch document is endless. Each investor has a different hot-button, and one pitch deck has to hit the majority of them, resonating with their emotional and financial requirements in order for them to commit capital to your company. People with money to invest in venture style start-ups are flooded with pitch books on a weekly basis. They become connoisseurs of the blarney vs the real deal. I don’t know how they do this? I’ve been in the industry for 35 years and still ponder how they’ve acquired their Nose, on what is going to work, and what clearly stinks. You have to respect that quality in prospective investors.

3. Anything in particular that makes you grateful?

You’re grateful when some of your contracted vendors actually show a special interest in your product. After all, the business you’ve committed to them is just a wisp of what they would expect from a big pharma contract. But sometimes, on some days, it’s a people-to-people business that aspires to a greater good, i.e. getting to a Phase II trial where patients may benefit from treatment with your drug. At the end-of-day, it’s this thing that galvanizes you and makes you want to climb back on the hamster wheel early the next day.

4. Why have you stayed doing what you do for so long? What makes it worth it?

But before you turn-off the mega-power center of your home office, you think about the buzz. What is it about this job that is such a turn-on? I guess it’s the feeling of being self-empowered, working on something you deem to be very important, and prevailing against impossible odds when you’re finally successful. It’s one of best jobs you could hope to have.

5. Any pieces of advice for people looking to get to where you are now?

Advice I can offer to people contemplating this gig, is to get as much training and gain new skills at established, larger companies before making the leap to biotech. There is no forgiveness for learning curve errors in the entrepreneurial world.

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