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President & CEO, Ovation
PRIDE IN: Building Ovation near hometown Chicago (when others said it wouldn't work)
KNOWN FOR: Metrics-based approach
It's easy to lose sight of where you came from, but for Jeffrey Aronin, 41, a vision for a new type of pharma company stemmed from his first healthcare job at Carter Wallace. "I recognized there was a real opportunity in some of the niche drugs," says Aronin, who repped an epilepsy drug. "I saw that if you solve an unmet need, you create a lot of opportunity and value." Fast forward some two decades, and Ovation has become a major player in the field of epilepsy, successfully partnering and buying up drugs that other companies had put on the shelf. And Ovation has entered other disease areas, making it a solid mid-sized pharma. In fact, since Aronin founded it in 2000, the company has grown to market 20 drugs in 87 countries, earning praise from the industry (for it's model), analysts (for it's strong performance), and patients (who have no other options) along the way.
After Carter Wallace, Aronin went on to work at American Health Products, and then to serve as Chairman, CEO, and President of MedCare Technologies. By the time he was ready to realize his vision, it had become difficult to raise money. A spate of mega-mergers lead to a "bigger is better" philosophy, and there was doubt that Aronin's model would work: "Nobody really believed that you could invest in R&D, and at the same time commercialize drugs," he remembers. So Aronin backed Ovation himself, and showed the world how small sales forces that served orphan disease categories could work.
"We've come full circle," he says, referring to the increase in specialty companies. But perhaps it's Aronin who's come full circle—but this time, leading a legion of companies who are fast-followers.