The chairman and CEO of Molecular Insight Pharmaceuticals (formerly Biostream) has reaped impressive rewards with his somewhat contrarian approach. Whether reengineering old drugs or applying radiochemistry to new and known molecules, Barlow has an uncanny eye for finding value off the beaten track.
After enjoying stints at several pharma companies, Barlow has settled at his latest venture, Molecular Insights, and is developing a proprietary-technology platform of molecular-imaging pharmaceuticals and a pipeline of molecular radiotherapeutics.How did you come up with so novel a business model?
Early on, I began focusing on neglected areas in healthcare characterized by undervalued technologies and undermanaged businesses.
It started with my first job at Serono, a company pioneering treatments for infertility derived from the urine of postmenopausal women. This was the type of business you wouldn't find the large name-brand companies associated with, yet Serono was creating significant value for patients and shareholders.
At Armour, we pioneered the use of monoclonal-antibody technology in plasma derivatives for people with hemophilia. These products were ultrapure at a time when patients were being infected with HIV from contaminated blood products.
Sepracor, where I was president, did sophisticated research on existing drugs—an approach that was of little interest to Big Pharma because it seemed to be the retooling of major products that were adequately labeled and well used.
How did you get involved with a biotech specializing in something like targeted radiotherapeutics?
In early 2000, a friend asked me to check out a company that did nuclear medicine. I said, "What's that?" And he said, "Imaging." All imaging meant to me at the time was you shoot up some guy with dye, put him in a tube, and light him up. But after meeting John Babich, Molecular Insight's scientific cofounder, and doing my homework, I said, "Great! Here we go again!"
Some meaningful advances in nuclear cardiology occurred several years ago, but, otherwise, radiopharmaceutical innovation had essentially ground to a halt. The stage was set to build a company focused exclusively on developing radiochemistry platform technology to radiolabel small molecules.
Radiochemistry and radiolabeling? Now it's my turn to say, "What's that?"
Basically, it's wrapping a molecule in radiation for either diagnostic or therapeutic purposes. It can be used to detect disease at very early stages by means of imaging cameras or to kill or arrest the growth of cancer via radiotherapy's well-established mechanism of action. Our strategy for developing radiopharmaceuticals allows us to apply our technology to several types of cancer, cardiac disease, and neurological disorders, using a fairly consistent model.
What progress have you made in developing actual diagnostics or drugs?
We are focusing on cancer and cardiovascular disease. Our lead molecular radiotherapeutic candidates include Azedra and Onalta to treat neuroendocrine tumors.
Our lead imaging candidates are Zemiva, to detect cardiac ischemia, and Trofex, to detect prostate cancer. Zemiva is now being studied in a planned trial in the emergency department.
David Barlow is the chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Molecular Insight Pharmaceuticals. Before making the move to Molecular Insight, Barlow carried the bag at Sepracor Pharmaceuticals, Ares-Serono, Pfizer, and Rhone-Poulenc Rorer. He received a BA from Bates College and an MBA from Stanford University.