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Wide range On verge of first commercial product, radius comes to N.J. touting its varied pipeline

Robert Ward, CEO and president of Radius Health: 'We are super-excited to be in that late stage biotech class.'-(PHOTO COURTESY RADIUS HEALTH)

As the small Waltham, Massachusetts-based biotech Radius Health moved closer to the impending commercialization of its phase three osteoporosis drug, the company decided to open an office in Parsippany.

Why spend the resources to set up an additional location just a quick Acela ride from its headquarters in the bubbling Boston biotech scene? According to Robert Ward, CEO and president of Radius, the answer is the experience of New Jersey’s talent pool.

Ward recently talked with NJBIZ about his company and doing business in New Jersey.

NJBIZ: What makes Radius unique in the market?

Robert Ward: We are on the cusp of transitioning to a commercial company, pending the regulatory approval. And that’s really a unique transition phase for any biotech company. We are super-excited to be in that late stage biotech class.

We also have earlier stage programs in oncology and vasomotor. The company has been below radar for so long as the portfolio matured, but our portfolio is reflective of a much larger company.

NJBIZ: How unusual is this?

RW: A trend in the last 10 years has been that larger numbers of biotech companies have one platform. They have one kind of technology they develop in different ways or one kind of therapeutic product that they focus their attention on.

We are part of a different kind of trend. To sustain innovation over a number of years, we have programs at many different stages of development.

NJBIZ: Can you give us an example?

RW: RAD 140 is a preclinical compound that had all the discovery work done at Radius, including the medicinal chemistry.

We also picked up a stage two asset in oncology from a Big Pharma portfolio. And our phase three asset came out of a portfolio developed by a midcap biotech.

Because we can discover as well as develop; that gives us a series of late stage assets merging as the portfolio matures.

NJBIZ: When you looked at New Jersey from Massachusetts, what was appealing?

RW: When you have your first commercial product, the ability to advertise and to be effective in sales and marketing is a new talent that is required of the company. The way we acquire that talent is to look for folks with a demonstrated track record of success.

For the longest time, New Jersey was the pharmacy of America. And the talent is still there.

“We are part of a different kind of trend. To sustain innovation over a number of years, we have programs at many different stages of development.”
Robert Ward, CEO and president, Radius Health

NJBIZ: That’s true, but so many other companies don’t necessarily see it that way.

RW: We believe it is very important to go where the talent exists. If you think of different stages of the industry, there are different regions that provide a true competitive edge.

When we think of the billions of dollars of commercial assets that have been developed in New Jersey, the depth and breadth of talent pool in New Jersey is outstanding.

NJBIZ: How does that talent pool differ from Massachusetts?

RW: It’s a unique talent pool of individuals with experience working with commercialized assets. Up here in Massachusetts, we have an exceptionally strong early-stage research capabilities. The number of individuals developing new scientific concepts or breakthroughs has fueled research focus activity.

But New Jersey is where other expertise is developed. Whether you are dealing with managed care or considering how to undertake marketing, there is a huge talent pool we wanted to tap in New Jersey.

NJBIZ: How does this strategy reflect larger industry trends?

RW: Life science will become more and more like the movie business. A movie director gets a script, brings together a group of individuals who produce the movie and then another group comes into distribute that movie.

We see that analogy in biotech and biopharma.

Many of the global companies have established distribution channels. But as small companies come together, we are tapping people that have had experiences across other therapeutics or other companies and asking them to bring their experience to Radius.

Even though the company has only been in existence for 12 years, the experience of the employees we attract exceeds the history of the company. We need to draw in folks who will allow us to finish the stage three trials and to drive research and development portfolio.

NJBIZ: Have you been surprised by any aspect of doing business in New Jersey?

RW: BioNJ is super active. Not just in terms of policy development, but in terms of local programs that support the industry.

Whether it is finding a location or applying for state programs (such as) incentives, BioNJ has been a great partner. We’ve learned so much from them.

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On Twitter: @dariameoli

Daria Meoli

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