Tuesday, 31 December 2013

The Drug Company CEO Which Named Her New Drug After Herself

Drug names are usually terrible. What I’ve heard from industry insiders is that their first and most mellifluous choices usually get rejected by the Food and Drug Administration, forcing them to go to their second- or third-favorite choices in order to launch their medicines on time. Which is what makes the name of Orenitram, the new drug approved by United Therapeutics United Therapeutics, all the more impressive.

What’s so special about that name? As an astute reader pointed out to me: Orenitram is Martine Ro. backward. And that would be Martine Rothblatt, United Therapeutics’ founder and one of the most captivating people in the biotechnology industry, a transgender transhumanist who often seems to be living a science fiction novel. (Check out this New York Times piece on the robot double made of Martine’s wife, Bina.)
Add to this that almost nobody expected Orenitram to be approved. The news caused United Therapeutics shares to jump 30%.

Rothblatt, a lawyer, helped create satellite radio in the late 1980s. At the time, she was a man, named Martin Rothblatt.  Martin’s daughter, Jeni, was diagnosed in 1990 with a rare disease called pulmonary arterial hypertension. After undergoing gender reassignment surgery in 1994, Martine launched United Therapeutics in 1996. She had found out about a Glaxo Wellcome drug that seemed to help PAH patients. She commercialized it, and was able to get investors interested because she realized there was no maximum price insurers would pay for an effective drug. United Therapeutics became one of biotech’s great success stories.

United, which has futurist Raymond Kurzweil on its board, has continued to march to the beat of its own rock opera. It issued its most recent annual report as a children’s book; the year before that, yes, a rock opera; and before that, it was a comic book. A little on-the-nose, maybe, but pretty creative, too.

Source: Forbes