Galderma R&D Inc.

Braham Shroot


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An `Ooh-la-la’ Drug for Acne

This article by Barbara Figge Fox was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on

February 24, 1999. All rights reserved.

In France, perhaps more than in any other country,

merchandise that enhances a woman’s beauty is a highly valued commodity

as well as a major contribution to the gross national product. One

thinks of Paris as the inspired origin of such glamour luxuries as

perfume and face cream. A French label has the eclat, the veritable

"ooh-la-la" that makes women the world over reach for their

credit cards.

So it should not be surprising that a French cosmetic firm was the

first to set up a center exclusively for research on skin diseases.

Twenty years ago, at a time when big pharmaceutical firms were devoting

only a small portion of their resources to dermatology, L’Oreal set

up a laboratory for serious dermatologic research and partnered with

Nestle to found Galderma, a pharmaceutical company located on the

Riviera near Nice.

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Galderma R&D Inc.

"There was very little chemistry associated with dermatology 25

years ago," says Braham Shroot, head of the North American laboratory

known as Galderma Research and Development Inc. "Many of the drugs

available were very old-fashioned, partly because dermatology was

a poor man’s area in terms of research and development. Companies

didn’t feel that they wanted to invest precious research in this direction.

But that was the vision of the people that founded our company."

Shroot is the first named inventor on the patent for Differin, Galderma’s

signature drug for treating acne. Galderma also has products for rosacea

and eczema and is developing treatments for psoriasis. If Neostrata

went from treating a severe skin affliction (icthyosis) to helping

women look beautiful, Galderma is the result of beauty merchandisers

investing in drugs to cure dermatological disorders — heartbreak

diseases of the skin.

Shroot, a Scotsman, has just brought Galderma’s American laboratory

from San Diego to Princeton. In temporary quarters now, it will move

this summer into 30,000 square feet at 5 Cedar Brook drive at Exit

8A and has an option on 60,000 feet. Shroot has 20 employees and is

hiring. Worldwide, the firm has a headquarters and production facilities

in France, laboratories in France and Japan, a marketing office in

Fort Worth, Texas, and a production facility near Montreal. It has

1,110 employees including 210 researchers, 70 inventions, and more

than 500 patents.

In February, 1998, Shroot had looked at locations in Pennsylvania,

Boston, Fort Worth, and even the rest of New Jersey. "We are full

of optimism about setting up our operation here. We had tremendous

cooperation from the local people," says Shroot, citing Henry

Cruz, of the state commerce department.

Shroot also liked Princeton’s proximity to Europe and its talent pool

that can be tapped by attending meetings and making contact "not

only with industry talent, but also local clinical talent in universities

and other centers."

Another factor: A business incentive grant from the NJ Economic Development

Authority to help pay for $8 million fit-out costs. The amount depends

on how many jobs are created, says Shroot. "Our plan is to have

80 or 90 people by 2000."

"We are looking now for experts in analytics and pharmaceutics,

clinical research, and regulatory affairs," says Shroot. Already

on board are his director of development who came from France: Jean

Combalbert. Xian-Ping Lu has come from the San Diego lab to continue

as director of research. Aaron Tenenbaum is in charge of information

technology and Nicole Morel is associate director of operations. Susan Tomasko,

the financial controller, came from Ingersoll-Rand and Mark Hecklinger,

director of human resources, had most recently worked for Bristol-Myers Squibb.

All have been in place since early fall and are eagerly awaiting their

move-in to their permanent quarters.

Architecture Plus of Raritan is doing the fit out for Cedar Brook

Corporate Center, which turns out to be a real biotech neighborhood,

with a polymer firm, HydroMed Sciences; a toothpaste firm, Enamelon;

a test lab, Vector Corporation; and another new biotech, Allelix Neuroscience.

In the early stages of move-in, says Shroot, the other firms were

helpful lending such equipment as projectors. "It’s like borrowing

sugar," he says.

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Braham Shroot

Shroot chose dermatology not entirely by chance. His wife had worked

as a nurse in a day care center for treatment of psoriasis, and he

himself had suffered from skin disease. "I know the heartache

of it," says Shroot, "and the drugs were far from adequate."

Dermatology is also an intriguing area because it encompasses so much

in so small a space. "The skin is a wonderful setting to do basic

research: It contains the blood system, nervous system, and cells

at different levels of maturation," says Shroot.

Braham Shroot grew up in Glasgow, where his parents owned a leather

furniture manufacturing business. Though he was an only child, he

chose to cede his rights and, instead, pursued chemistry studies at

the University of Glasgow, Class of 1964. He stayed in Glasgow for

his PhD and married a nurse in that city. (His wife, Sandy Shroot,

is now a professional world-class downhill mountain bike racer who

has a bicycle business, Top Cycle, in Antibes, near Galderma’s French


Just after he went to do his post doctoral studies at

Harvard with Robert Burns Woodward, Woodward won a Nobel Prize. Shroot

worked on discovery of anti-fungal drugs at Pfizer for five years

and joined the L’Oreal Group — one of the parent companies of

Galderma — in 1976.

"I was one of the instigators of the research center in Nice,"

says Shroot. "Then it was a private institute, called the Center

for International Skin Research, set up to do basic research and understand

the mechanism of disease. It prepared us for where we are today."

Shroot followed Galderma’s signature product Differin for acne from

concept to launch. Differin has as its key ingredient a new Vitamin

A molecule named Adapelene. Johnson & Johnson discovered the original

metabolite of vitamin A, Retin-A. But Adapelene, says Shroot, was

the first fully synthetic "retinoid." "One advantage of

the synthetic retinoid is that it is much better tolerated. Exactly

what mechanism it uses we have not yet discovered, but is less irritating."

"For new entities, there are no shortcuts," says Shroot. It

took six years to discover Adapelene, and 10 years later Differin

came on the market. Now Differin is a proven prescription therapy

that earns nearly $100 million worldwide. Its slogan: "Tough on

acne, gentle on you."

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"Differin is less irritating than most of the retin-A products.

I love Differin and I use a lot of it," confirms Albert Rosenthal,

a dermatologist on Franklin Corner Road. "If you want something

that is a very nice treatment for acne that takes the blackheads to

the surface, Differin is perfect. Patients use it at nighttime, and

unlike most of the other retinol products you don’t have to wait for

your face to dry before you put it on. That is a big extra."

Galderma uses such techniques as combinatorial chemistry, high throughput

assays, and state-of-the-art formulation materials, and it markets

both prescription and consumer products, specifically Cetaphil-brand

lotions, bars, and creams. "We have a very rich pipeline that

includes products for psoriasis."

Shroot made the transition from bench to management, he says, "by

asking really experienced people who I admired in the company what

one does in a certain situation. The hardest parts are negotiations

and communication."

"It is quite a mindset change to general management. My brief

is to keep very close touch with our business of research. I try to

get people to do what makes them happy in their work. I try to take

as much stress out of their job by shielding them from administrative

tasks that dilute their work. It is what researchers and developers

are meant to do."

Working in the United States prevents him from spending much time

with his wife; they see each other every four or five weeks. But,

says Shroot, "The job here is so exciting, and engineering and

building something new is worth this investment."

Unlike the CEO of an entrepreneurial start-up R&D, Shroot need not

concern himself with how he is going to meet payroll. He doesn’t have

to go after venture capital or decide whether to go public: Galderma

is owned by deep-pocketed companies.

"Pharmaceutical companies weren’t prepared to spend that proportion

of their budget on dermatological research until quite recently,"

says Shroot. "Whether because they were French or because they

were involved in the skin area, the people at L’Oreal and Nestle had

the vision — over 20 years ago — that it would be a tremendous

growth area."

— Barbara Figge Fox

Galderma Research and Development Inc., 8 Cedar

Brook Drive, T-1A Cedar Brook Corporate Center, Cranbury 08512. Braham

Shroot, president. 609-409-7701; fax, 609-409-7705. Home page:

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