DENNIS CARLO: LEARNING FROM BIOTECH HISTORY
CEO of Adamis learns from his own history in biotechs how to set up success
By BRADLEY J. FIKES • U-T 12:01 a.m.July 29, 2013
Dennis Carlo knows from hard experience what can happen to a biotech company when it has no short-term revenue prospects. He was chief executive of Immune Response Corp., a defunct Carlsbad company that unsuccessfully tried to develop vaccines for HIV and other diseases.
Now CEO of Adamis Pharmaceuticals, Carlo has built the Carmel Valley company around a strategy to avoid that pitfall.
He met with U-T San Diego recently to explain the company’s approach. Its first product is a device that injects epinephrine, used to counter serve allergic reactions called anaphylaxis.
Q: Adamis tried to merge with La Jolla Pharmaceutical a few years ago, but that fell through. What has Adamis been doing since then?
A: We’ve done a few financings, but we’ve really been like groundhogs, staying underground, putting the technology together, putting the company together. And now I think we’re ready to come out and tell the world what we’re doing. We have two wholly owned subsidiaries at Adamis Pharmaceuticals: a specialty pharmaceutical subsidiary and a biotech subsidiary.
Q: On the specialty pharmaceutical side, Adamis is preparing to sell a new injectable epinephrine device to compete against the Epi-Pen. What does it provide that the Epi-Pen doesn’t?
A: The Epi-Pen is a very good product; it did $640 million in sales last year. This is just more intuitive and it’s a low-cost alternative. If you have insurance, it will probably run about $20 for two of them. (The Epi-Pen) is $70-$80 — a big difference. We’re projecting after the first full year, we’ll be cash flow-positive on this product.
Q: So you’re going to bring in products that are tweaks to existing ones, that can be approved quickly?
A: What I want to do is focus on specialty pharmaceuticals, have the analysts look at the company and say, my God, they have a huge pipeline on the biotech side to increase the valuation of the company. ... I like to call it the steak and the sizzle. The steak is the specialty pharmaceuticals. And the biotech side is what we’re going to be developing later on.
Q: What’s in the biotech pipeline?
A: We’ve licensed prostate cancer compounds and a prostate cancer vaccine. The vaccine is further along. That’s the one that Dr. (Maurizio) Zanetti has developed. He’s taken patients that have had advanced prostate cancer, given them this vaccine that induces immune response in cancer patients. He’s shown it is safe. He showed it induces a T-cell response, and those T-cells have the capability of killing prostate cancer cells. Phase 1 is completed. We haven’t started Phase 2 yet. We will, once we raise additional funds.
Q: Since you’re not going to get that value for several years, it seems like you will keep the company small until that biotech pipeline gets to market.
A: I’ve learned my lessons from history. I’ve been in the biotech area for a long time. We don’t intend to build a company with hundreds and hundreds of employees. We’re going to keep overhead down, we’re going to generate real revenues and be a real company, and hopefully, be one of the largest biotech companies in San Diego.