Leonard Mazur is the Co-Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Citius Pharma, a late-stage biopharma company focused on the development and commercialization of first-in-class critical care products. We discuss the benefits of investing in your professional relationships, investment opportunities in biopharma, and ways to minimize the risks of your investments.
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Invest in Relationships with Leonard Mazur
Our guest is Leonard Mazur, our co-founder, chairman and CEO of Citius Pharma, a late stage biopharma company with a pipeline of anti-infective drugs in cancer care, oncology and stem cell therapy. Leonard, welcome to the show.
It’s a pleasure to be here and I thank you for giving me this opportunity to be interviewed by you. Thank you.
Well, that’s a mutual thank you as well. So let’s start, Leonard, with your journey becoming, I mean, you have a long story of an entrepreneur, but how do you end up in this sector, the biopharma business and running a company looking for a cure for cancer?
So how far back do you want me to go? It all depends. Put it in a nutshell. My journey began because I joined and became part of the pharmaceutical industry a long time ago. I absolutely love this industry. I think this is one of the few industries where you can be involved, not only on the business side, but also you’re on the life-saving side. That has its own rewards. And I think a lot of the people that I interact with in this business have that, share that same feeling. And I think that’s a real critical part to what we all do. And because of that, I’ve always taken a deep interest, a deep commitment. I am at, you know, biopharma and pharmaceuticals flow in my veins. That’s what I, that’s my blood. All right. So, getting here, just like everybody else’s journey, you know, you start out in the beginning at a much lower level. And that’s when you really begin to, it’s really when you really begin to appreciate what this industry is all about because I started out in pharmaceutical sales and ultimately interacting with doctors and so forth taught me really right on the firing line what this business is all about.
And then ultimately progressing into marketing and then progressing into strategic planning, more acquisitions. So I was fortunate in that I had a great foundation that was given to me by the very first company that I joined. It was called Cooper Laboratories. That company, I spent 10 years there. Had an incredible CEO founder by the name of Parker G. Montgomery, and he was a dynamo. He made 150 acquisitions. So you can imagine what that environment was like. So it was a great environment to be in. The company gave you every opportunity to prove yourself, and if you did prove yourself, you were appropriately rewarded. So I had some really, really great exposure at an early age to deal making, to running a unit of the company. I managed to even set up a whole little small group called Cooper Dermatology that focused in on a dermatologist. We had Aveeno as our cornerstone grant back then. So all of those were great opportunities for me in terms of my career and what I was able to build upon. I really built upon that platform and what I learned at Cooper Laboratories. It was really a great starting point for me.
That’s awesome. So, Leonard, we talked about, you know, all the experiences you had, well, not all of them, but some of the experiences you had, and that you evolved your own process, your own blueprint, so to say, to make a research-based product successful. Could you share with our audience what that is and what that looks like?
So, the research side of this business is a very complex side, and it has somebody that’s really, and I always like to tell everyone, someone that’s really your partner when you’re a company and that is the Food and Drug Administration. So you have to be very cognizant of that because all the rules, all the regulations, all the methods that are deployed by this industry getting a drug approved have to comport to the FDA and The way it’s prescribed and that’s done on a joint basis with that agency. So but in terms of Picking out and making selections. That’s a that’s a whole process in terms of picking a drug, how do you really go about starting from zero almost and saying, “Okay, this is something that I think we can invest in and it looks like it has a reasonable shot of getting approved.” Given the fact that 90 percent of all drugs that enter into phase one research fail. Most people probably do not realize that. There’s a high barrier there in terms of making, going through that hurdle and getting to that final stage of a drug approval. So I come from, I don’t come from a research background, I come more from a marketing slash business background. And because of that, I probably look at it a little bit differently.
And I actually developed an approach with, developed really with my partner and where we started CITIUS, Martin Belubiak, who used to be the president of Roche Laboratories. And what we looked at were, we like to look at niches where it would not require a gigantic marketing presence at the end to bring it to successful commercial launch and so forth. We like to look at niches where a small number of people could still enter into a market and penetrate that market on a successful basis. But what that also meant was that to look for opportunities where you didn’t have any competition. If you could look at something and see no one else there, and that’s how we really got started. So we got started because we found out there was an opportunity from MD Anderson, the cancer hospital, probably the world’s premier cancer hospital. The chief of infectious disease had invented a drug for salvaging or saving infected catheters in patients that had long-term catheters implanted in them. And he did it in a very creative way. It took him a number of years to get there. develop something that would not compromise the integrity of IV treatment that patients receive.Look for opportunities where you didn't have any competition. Click To Tweet
So today, the only standard of care for a patient that has a central venous catheter that gets infected is to remove the catheter and replace it with a new catheter. Two separate surgical procedures, very painful for the patient. And so he came up with a solution that you could put in, inject into the catheter, lock it, does not go into man, it resides within the catheter for two hours. At the end of two hours, the nurse comes in, aspirates out the contents and flushes the line, and a patient has 22 hours of uninterrupted IV flow. So, and you do this five to seven days in a row and that catheter is completely sterilized, including any biofilm, which is basically, I call it bacterial slime that forms on the inner walls of the catheter and the line. When we looked at that, we realized that this was a unique. It was unique because no one else was there. There was no other product there. No one else was doing any research on that end at that time. So we in-licensed the drug, which is an approach taken by many pharmaceutical companies will do this. They don’t have their own research laboratories where scientists are mixing things up and looking for discoveries. It’s much more efficient to go license the discoveries as a result of somebody else’s work, such as was done at MD Anderson by Dr. Issam Raad, the chief of infectious disease there. So we in-licensed that. We thought that that opportunity was extremely unique and because of that we engaged into that effort. But if you can, if you could somehow come up or enlist in something that has a uniqueness to it, and you’re in there by yourself, that to us was the very first step that we would take.We thought that that opportunity was extremely unique and because of that we engaged into that effort. Click To Tweet
So, that’s interesting. Now, not every listener understands the pharma industry, obviously, but what I really enjoyed in our previous conversation, and you kind of abstracted this method, which would apply to other industries as well, I really like you talked about the niche where you can be competitive. You also talked about building your belief and using your intuition. You also talked about maximizing your limited resources. Can you elaborate a little bit on these two steps? When you find the unmet need, you have a competitive product, how do you leverage your belief? How do you build your belief in it? How do you tap into your intuition to convince yourself or to ascertain whether this is something that you should invest your energy and resources into?
But, so what we did, we initially funded a phase 2B trial for that drug that was developed at MD Anderson. When that was completed, we realized that there was something there that had efficacy associated with it, with zero side effects actually. And because of that profile, we committed to funding some additional work. And then we had to take the company public at that point to raise more capital to be able to really bring it across the finish line. So the raising of capital and relationships that you have out there in a marketplace become really, really important. There are a driver here for us like they are for hundreds of other companies like we are.
Yeah. So what about relationships? You also talked about relationships being really important when you build a business and you build a career, how did you tap into your relationships and how did you use them to help you move forward?
Well, I spent many years before I became an entrepreneur working at, you know, going up the ladder basically and ultimately becoming a head of marketing and running a company and so forth. So but the relationship side is what enabled me to really get started as an entrepreneur. I started my first company. It was called Genesis Pharmaceuticals. It was a prescription derma logical platform company. We had no products. What I did is I entered into an agreement to represent a small manufacturer who had a pretty decent product line that I thought could be, and he didn’t have any sales expertise or selling expertise or marketing expertise, good manufacturing expertise. So, basically, I entered into a relationship with that company, and the relationship was that we would sell their drug. I would put together a sales force. It would be at my expense at the time, and I would promote his products to that select group of dermatologists.
So that relationship that I had with that individual was something that I had developed over the years. He knew me, I knew him, we trusted each other, we were able to work it out so that we put together a good agreement. And ultimately what happened was because of that, I was able to acquire that company. really got me then moving ahead in terms of moving a company head. So what I found was that the relationships that I had developed while working for others or working in the pharma industry helped me again because again I was able to parlay that into additional relationships to really expand the business. So relationships are really, really critical because they’re important if you’re going to be in licensing, they’re important if you’re going to be raising capital, they’re important in many other different ways. Even in terms of attracting talent for your company, you sometimes, you’ll get to know people over the years and you’ve seen them from a distance, it was a relationship. So a relationship got Sidious started. So the reason we started myself and I knew Myron Halubiak from the time that we were both promoted from sales into marketing. So, but he was at Hoppin La Roche, I was at Cooper Laboratories. So we didn’t know each other until we met at a industry conference that was training us how to be good market research analysts. So that it’s all relationships all the way along the way, all the way along the way.So relationships are really critical because they're important if you're going to be in licensing, they're important if you're going to be raising capital, they're important in many other different ways. Click To Tweet
So what about the investors? What make an investor choose to invest in a company, in a biotech company? drugs don’t make it to launch, which is a little bit like venture capital. Venture capitalists invest in maybe look at a hundred companies, pick a right to invest in, and nine out of ten is not going to be great. But if one is great. So how do they choose which company to invest in?
There are many different approaches here, but what happens is, especially in biotech, in that arena, if you can attract a venture capital support and get started that way, there are lots of companies that are like that. They basically, the venture capitalists go through a due diligence process and they more or less vet that opportunity. And then once they’re in, others are basically saying, okay, they’re professional, they know what they’re doing, et cetera, et cetera. We didn’t go that way, all right? So we went another way, completely different from that approach. And the way it worked is that we put our own capital in. So myself and Myron Halubiak, we invested directly in a company ourselves first, and significant sums. So I have 22.5 million invested in the company, and he has $4 million invested in the company. So you don’t see, you rarely ever see it at that level being done by anyone. So that was a key point in terms of attracting others to invest in the company because they saw that we had confidence in what we were doing. Otherwise, why would we put up those kinds of funds into the company? So that became a real critical aspect of this.A key point in terms of attracting others to invest in the company was to have confidence in what you were doing. Click To Tweet
So not only that, but since we had sufficiently vetted everything and we had a good understanding of that first opportunity, that really enabled us to really expand from there. And again, everything has always been done with the concept of minimizing the risk. So it even happened once we acquired the cancer drug that we have right now that has a BLA filed with the PDUFA date of July 28th of this year. So that cancer drug that we picked up, it’s kind of interesting the way that happened. I was contacted by a boutique bank, Terea Partners, they were representing Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, which you may have heard of. It’s a big Indian generic company mostly. And what had happened was that Dr. Reddy’s had decided at one point to expand into the branded side of the business here in the United States, acquired a bunch of branded pharmaceutical drugs as well as a research drug.
The research drug was this cancer drug for a very rare cancer and it had it had a history to it that was really interesting and it went like this. The drug was originally developed by Ligand. Ligand then sold it to Eastside, the big Japanese pharma company. And so it was approved. It goes on a market. ESAI has it on a market for three years. And what happened was that as a condition of the approval, there was a requirement that they reformulate the drug. It was not due to safety issues or anything like that, but they had to remove some unfolded proteins from the formulation. So, and they had a choice at that time. This drug is very hard to make and has very long lead times. Their inventory was very limited. So, they had a choice. They either completed that reformulation work or they had to take the existing drug off the market while they worked and use that inventory to reformulate the drug so they decided to take the drug off the market they take the drug off the market and What happened was after they reformulated everything they go back to the FDA and the FDA said to them You have to this is a new drug now you have to now do a phase three study, right?
Now this was for a very rare cancer called cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, of which there are only about probably no more than 3,000, roughly 3,000 incidences of here in the United States. So they had to engage in that. It was a small, 71 patient trial with 20 patients on a lead-in basis before they went to that 71. It took forever to get it done because it was such a small number of patients they could draw from. And in the meantime, what happened was Eastside decided to license the drug while they were working on it to Dr. Reddy’s, okay? So when the banker contacted me, they were on their very last patient for their phase 3 clinical trial. So, we’re beyond phase 1 and 2, alright? And the drug had been on the market before. So, we took that risk, we signed that agreement, and three months later, the last patient was done. And then within nine months or within a year of doing this agreement, you know, we were ready to file for BLA and go for an approval. So we minimized the risk greatly. Now, we had to pay for that. So we paid significantly for the rights to that drug at that time. Okay.
All right. So lots of intricacies about pharma, investing, building a portfolio, you know, finding your good bets to put your money on. If people would like to learn more about C2’s Pharma or would like to reach out to you and connect with you, where can they do that?
So we have a website. So it’s ctxrpharma.com. So basically citiuspharma.com for me. C-I-T-I-U-S-P-H-A-R-M-A.com. C-T-X-R is our stock symbol. So they can look it up there. On our website, there’s an ability to be able to connect and make inquiries into the company.
Fantastic. Well, definitely, if you’re looking for a good company to invest in, or if you would like to learn more about these anti-infective drugs in cancer care oncology, stem cell therapy that Citius Pharma is working on, then definitely check out citiuspharma.com. Leonard, it was great having you on this show. Thank you for coming and sharing your experience and wisdom. And for those of you listening, stay tuned because every week I bring another interesting entrepreneur who shares their thoughts and their management blueprints for you, with you. and their management blueprints for you, with you. Thank you for listening.
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