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These articles were published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on November 17, 1999. All rights reserved.
Life in the Fast Lane: Patricia Nasshorn
Patricia Nasshorn has a job any woman could love. She
is head of a small division in a major pharmaceutical conglomerate,
marketing a product that has virtually no competitors, and earlier
this year she cut her commute time in half by moving her office, lock,
stock, and barrel to downtown Princeton. If that weren’t enough, Nasshorn
routinely gets E-mails from her customers thanking her for her company’s
Nasshorn is president of Unipath Diagnostics Co., a division of the
U.K.-based Unilever and the marketing arm for a complete line of women’s
reproductive diagnostics that includes ClearBlue Easy, a home-based
pregnancy test. That is already more or less a household name, but
Nasshorn’s job is to give the company’s latest product, a first-of-its
kind computerized fertility test, the same kind of presence in the
minds of consumers and merchandisers. The ClearPlan Fertility Monitor,
as it is called, is a palm-size computer that uses urine tests to
pinpoint the exact days in a woman’s cycle when conception is most
likely. Although it is currently available on the Internet and in
most pharmacies, many of the big chain merchandisers are holding out
due to the $199 price-tag.
On the consumer front, however, things look good. Since the product
launch in March, Nasshorn has received a slew of E-mails from women
who were finally able to conceive while using the monitor. "It
feels great to help women and families," she says. "I just
find the area of women’s health extremely interesting, and I love
being associated with a company and product that helps people."
Before Unilever, Nasshorn worked for Johnson & Johnson. Based in New
Brunswick, Nasshorn was vice president of marketing for the diagnostics
division, where she oversaw the development and marketing of Confide,
the first home-based HIV testing service, and J&J’s pregnancy test
kits. When Unilever approached J&J in hopes of finding an American
marketing partner for its soon-to-be released fertility monitor, Nasshorn
was a key to those discussions. Unipath eventually decided to launch
independently, and Nasshorn was the obvious choice to lead the marketing
effort. "They were interested in finding someone who had U.S.
marketing experience and an understanding of women’s diagnostics and
I was able to bring both of those to the party," she explains.
Initially, Nasshorn worked out of Unilever’s Manhattan office, but
when the company decided Unipath should split off and find a new home,
Nasshorn hand-picked Princeton for professional and personal reasons.
"Princeton is really rich with human resources and talent in the
health care industry," says Nasshorn. It is also very close to
the town where she was born, and the place she has lived ever since.
Nasshorn grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs, the middle child in
a family of all-daughters. Like their father, an entrepreneur who
sold measurement instruments to companies, Nasshorn and her two sisters
showed a propensity for math and science (one sister now teaches math
at Temple University, another works at Unisys). Nasshorn received
a business degree from Temple University, Class of 1976, and a marketing
and finance MBA in 1977.
Since she wanted to continue living in Bucks County,
Nasshorn decided to launch her career in the pharmaceutical industry.
She began with Johnson & Johnson, working as a market analyst. In
1984, she expanded her management experience by joining Bristol-Myers
Squibb, where she helped identify new business and licensing opportunities
and negotiate acquisitions. In 1991 she joined Merck to execute the
$6 billion acquisition of Medco, and returned to J&J in 1994 as a
vice president of marketing.
Throughout her 20-year career, Nasshorn has never left eastern Pennsylvania,
first because of an affinity, and later out of duty. Her husband,
Donald Nasshorn, is a district justice and is required to live within
his jurisdiction. The couple live in Newtown where they are raising
two teenage daughters.
When she joined Unipath, there was talk of moving the division office
to Connecticut, which would have been hard — if not impossible
— for her family. Fortunately, Princeton offered everything a
small pharmaceutical company could want.
At Unipath’s office on Hulfish Street, Nasshorn presides over a small
fiefdom that includes roughly 16 marketing representatives and three
products — the ClearBlue Easy home pregnancy tests, the ClearPlan
Easy Ovulation Predictor, and the new ClearPlan Fertility Monitor.
Nasshorn meets with executives in Bedford, England, about once a month.
Of Unipath’s three products, the fertility monitor is the most unusual.
A sort of digital journal, it logs the ups and downs of a woman’s
fertility by combining modern computer technology with the now conventional
urine stick tests. "Fertility biologically declines with age and
we’re offering women the opportunity to maximize their chances of
conception," says Nasshorn. "It’s different in that it’s the
only product available that tells a woman her level of fertility every
single day based on her hormones."
Unlike the throw-away ovulation tests, such as First Response and
Answer (both Carter Wallace products), the fertility monitor is a
companion product: it can be used every day for a year or more and
the data can even be downloaded to a computer. The computer operates
on the belief that nearly all pregnancies can be attributed to intercourse
during the six days prior to the start of ovulation. On the first
day of menstruation, a woman "logs on" by taking a urine test
to detect the level of hormones that indicate the onset of ovulation.
At this time, the computer typically indicates a "low" fertility
level. From that point on, the computer asks for periodic urine tests.
When the two key hormones indicating ovulation — estrogen and
luteinizing hormone — spike, the computer lets a woman know that
her fertility level is "high."
Then, for each following cycle, the computer has a blueprint of a
woman’s cycle and knows which days to request a urine test. This allows
the monitor to pinpoint as many "high fertility" days as possible
— usually as many as six days. The throw-away ovulation tests,
by comparison, are only sensitive enough to identify three or four
high fertility days, says Nasshorn. "The monitor takes it one
step further, marrying the sticks with computer technology, and gives
women the greatest window of opportunity."
You might say Nasshorn brings her work home with her. She even recruited
her two daughters to test out the new monitor. If it could predict
onset of their periods, she reasoned, then the monitor more than likely
has other key aspects of their cycles down pat. "It was reassuring,"
she says. "For the time frame they used it, it was 100 percent
Accuracy in this case means being able to predict hormone fluctuation
in the body that can indicates when a woman is or isn’t fertile. Unipath
can not guarantee, however, that women trying to achieve pregnancy
using the fertility monitor will have 100 percent satisfactory results.
To get FDA clearance, Unipath only had to demonstrate that the fertility
monitor picked up surges in the key hormones — not that pregnancy
rates tended to climb among those who used the product for the express
purpose of getting pregnant. "We had to prove that it compared
to our existing home ovulation tests in that it performed the same
function of identifying the hormones associated with ovulation,"
explains Nasshorn. Because the product was able to do just that, the
FDA approved a label that says the monitor maximizes your chances
of getting pregnant.
However, Unipath is conducting tests to see if the product does result
in higher rates of conception among users of the monitor. The company
hopes to publish the findings of a consumer trial, which includes
500 women between ages of 25 to 39 using the product, by the end of
Unofficially, Nasshorn believes the evidence is already in. "We’ve
heard success stories from people who have been trying anywhere from
a few months to a few years," says Nasshorn. "The real issue
is building awareness."
Unipath launched the product in March of this year at a conference
in San Francisco of the International Federation of Fertility Society.
The reception was strong, says Nasshorn: nearly 75 percent of attendees
indicated that they would introduce the products to patients; the
rest were neutral. Nasshorn also contracted a sales force to call
the top 15,000 Ob-Gyn physicians and partnered with Johnson & Johnson
to inform pharmacists on the features and benefits of the product.
"Clearly if someone is going to spend $199 they would like to
ask a pharmacist and get an informed answer," says Nasshorn.
Since the fertility monitor is a diagnostic piece of equipment, and
doesn’t require a prescription, the company also wants to generate
consumer awareness. What better place to do that these days than on
the Web; in March the company launched the website, http://www.clearplan.com,
where the consumer can get information and order the product. "The
only challenge thus far is getting the product listed in the mass
merchandisers," says Nasshorn.
Although pharmacies are currently carrying the fertility monitor,
Nasshorn is pushing to get mass marketers, such as Walmart, K-Mart
and Target, to carry it as well. At $199 a monitor, there’s a feeling
it won’t sell fast enough. "They’re concerned about the price
point — the cost of stocking the product," says Nasshorn.
However, Walmart agreed to put the product in 50 of its leading stores
as a test. "So far they’re quite pleased with the results,"
The third part of Unipath’s marketing drive begins this month, with
advertising in several women and parent’s magazines and a concentrated
effort to reach the health producers of news programs. "We consider
this a major advance in home diagnostics," says Nasshorn.
Technology aside, Nasshorn believes the product should be a hit because
it follows the mores of reproduction that are predominant today. "Basically
we see that the trend is towards waiting a little longer not only
to get married, but to get pregnant." she says. "Our products
are what I call `feel good’ diagnostics: they don’t give you terrible
news," says Nasshorn. "It’s all wellness related and helps
— Melinda Sherwood
Suite 400, Princeton 08542. Patricia Nasshorn, president, U.S. division.
609-430-2727; fax, 609-430-1197. Home page: http://www.unipath.com.
104, Princeton 08540. Anthony C. Warren. 609-688-9990; fax, 609-688-9988.
Anthony Warren has left Technology Management & Funding, a company
he co-founded with Harry Brener, to open his own firm. He had also
been North American president of PA Technologies.
Shapod, office manager. 732-821-6188; fax, 732-821-5864.
A 10,000-foot historic building, the former Philip School, now houses
a daycare center for 100 children with a capacity for 160 children.
"It is one of the oldest buildings in the township, but it had
been abandoned," says Isabella Fishman, a registered nurse who
is also the administrator. Fishman says the five-acre site will also
be used for summer camps in 2000. Jim Kissane is the architect who
redesigned the building near Society Hill. Globe Miff Inc. is the
of Princeton University after 21 years of service.
he lived in Plainsboro and worked in Merrill Lynch’s New York office.
DuBois, she was a poet, writer, and singer.
at Princeton Theological Seminary and worked as a pastoral associate
at Kingston United Methodist Church.
director of Creative Playthings on Alexander Street.
Community Tennis program, became tennis coach at Princeton University
in 1971, and founded and directed the United State Tennis Association’s
Center for Education and Recreational Tennis on Alexander Road. She
was also an active volunteer in the field of mental health support
technician at Lockheed Martin on Princeton Hightstown Road.
Corrections or additions?
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