Herpes Treatment

Joseph Mo

Corrections or additions?

This story Peter J. Mladineo was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on

March 25, 1998. All rights reserved.

True Tale of Sex and Drugs

Here’s a pharmaceutical firm that even an American

president could love. Two of its products treat sex-related problems

and it operates a facility in China, our "most favored nation"

trading partner.

The company is NexMed, which has just relocated from southern California

to 6,000 square feet at 350 Corporate Boulevard in Robbinsville. By

next year could occupy 16,000 square feet at that location. NexMed

is marketing what could be the first impotence cream, a computer-generated

treatment for herpes, and a drug factory near Hong Kong that churns

out hundreds of generics a year.

First, the sex part. As the American population continues to age,

the impotence industry is booming. Pfizer has been making headlines

in major business publications as its impotence drug, Viagra, neared

federal approvals for sale in the United States. This is the first

time a pill is being used to treat impotence and some analysts are

predicting that Viagra may become as prevalent as Prozac. "This

drug, if it works as expected, is what every man with impotence wants

when he sees a doctor," Drogo K. Montague, head of the Center

for Sexual Function, was quoted as saying.

But NexMed’s offering, Alprox-TD, is an erectile dysfunction cream.

The active ingredient is alprostadil, the chemical used in existing

treatments like Caverject, an injection by Pharmacia-Upjohn, and Muse,

an intraurethal system made by Vivus. In a marketing report, NexMed

says there is plenty of room for other competing treatments in this

far-from-saturated market. "The data indicate that during the

second quarter of 1997, the combined prescription rate of Caverject

and Muse average 110,000 (units) per month. Clearly only a fraction

of the estimated 20 million impotent U.S. men who sought treatment

during this period."

The president, CEO, and chairman of NexMed is Joseph Mo, a Ph.D. from

Purdue, who hopes to market Alprox-TD to those with less-severe cases

of impotence that are not tabulated along with the 20 million. "If

those individuals were also included, the estimate may reach 30 million

in the U.S.," says the marketing report. NexMed is hoping to get

its message out to a "potentially large number of recreational

users" as well.

So far, Alprox-TD has completed phase I clinical trials in the United

States but is much closer to approval in Argentina, where Mo expects

it will be approved for sale to the public use very soon. NexMed is

also ready to start production of the drug in Canada, he adds.

Another Princeton area company also is trying to cash in on the impotence

boom as well: Palatin Technologies, based at 214 Carnegie Center,

is working on a drug called Erectide, a peptide hormone analog that

could be used as both a therapy and diagnostic agent in the treatment

of impotence (U.S. 1, November 19).

There are many other development stage impotence treatments in addition

to Alprox-TD — constriction devices, vacuum devices, surgical

implants, and even herbal remedies. And compared to the field, Alprox-TD

lags far behind some others. Pfizer’s Viagra is an oral dosage that

has already filed a new drug application with the United States Food

and Drug Administration. Takeda-Abbott has a drug called Apo-morphine

that you put under your tongue. This is in Phase III trials.

Alprox-TD uses its own transdermal "enhancer technology"

it calls NexAct, which closely resembles a patch and succeeds as such

because of the rapid rate at which the drug can be delivered. "It’s

much more convenient," says Mo. Currently, NexAct has two patents

and three applications are pending.

Top Of Page
Herpes Treatment

But NexMed’s herpes treatment, Viratrol, could be one of the most

ambitious innovations on the market. It’s a treatment for herpes that

uses a hand-held, non-invasive device to impart a low-level electric

current to the infected site. Treating either oral herpes or genital

herpes, the microchip-controlled current reportedly blocks lesions

from forming and shortens the healing time of existing lesions. "Traditionally,

medicines are chemicals or biochemicals," says Mo. "In this

case the medicine is made up of electrons."

This device will be "significantly" cheaper and more effective

than existing treatments. Mo reports the drugs currently available

need three to five weeks to treat genital herpes. "With our device

it would take maybe two to four days, with no known toxicity,"

he says. NexMed intends to have a phase III double-blind efficacy

study wrapped up by the third quarter of this year.

"This will be the first microchip medicine ever to get approved

by the FDA," Mo predicts.

With Mo at the helm, NexMed has seen enormous changes in the last

two and a half years. Born in mainland China and educated in Taiwan,

he finished college in 1970 and then served a year in the Taiwanese

military before moving to the United States. He earned a masters in

biotechnology from the University of North Texas and then a Ph.D.

in industrial pharmacy from Purdue University. His career has included

stints for Johnson & Johnson, SmithKline, Rorer Pharmaceuticals, and

Greenwich Pharmaceuticals, where he was a divisional president

for six years.

For the last seven years, Mo and his wife, Jennifer, and children

Robert, 14, and Stephanie, 12, have lived in Lawrenceville. "This

is a great area to be in, with all of the biotech corporations and

pharmaceutical companies located in this area," he says.

Top Of Page
Joseph Mo

Mo joined NexMed less than three years ago. His first move was to

change the company’s name. It had been called BioElectric Inc., and

only marketed Viratrol. "I renamed the company to NexMed, which

stands for `next generation of medicine,’" says Mo.

The next step was to start licensing new drugs and technologies. NexAct

was developed by Ted Higuchi, a world renowned Japanese-American professor.

"This is different from the other patches," says Mo. "It

contains 40 different penetration enhancers that could promote absorption

of drugs through skin in a very large amount in a very short period

of time. This is a unique technology. We have multiple patents, not

just in the U.S. but internationally. It’s a platform technology,

meaning it’s applicable to numerous drugs. So far we have identified

25 different drug candidates suitable for our technology."

Mo also got NexMed a 70 percent stake in a Chinese generic drug factory

in Zhongsan, a 40-minute drive from Hong Kong. Mo says that while

products from this factory aren’t sold in the United States, the factory

produces 140 different drugs — mostly antibiotics and anti-infectives

— that did $7 million in sales last year. It manufactures generic

drugs for sale outside of the United States. Before the FDA will approve

anything made in China, Mo explains, the facility must be upgraded

to meet the good manufacturing practices standard embraced by the

United States. Until then, NexMed is focusing on selling in Asia and

South America, where approvals are expected soon.

There are 20 employees in 6,000 square feet in the Robbinsville location,

and the company co-owns a generic drug factory in China, with more

than 200 employees. Plus there are labs in Kansas and Texas. Within

the year, Mo hopes to close both labs and consolidate them to the

Robbinsville location. "We’re going to be relocating our people

step-by-step." An addition 4,000 feet will be available by August,

then an additional 6,000 will come available by January, 1999.

For Mo, the overseas operation and the diversification of the company

have served the cash flow, but NexMed’s ultimate success will derive

from the quality of the its licensing intuitions. "We have chosen

drugs with good market potential, that’s the key," says Mo.

But mostly NexMed has invested in good growth industries. "Herpes

is a $4 billion market," he adds.

— Peter J. Mladineo

NexMed Inc., 350 Corporate Boulevard, Robbinsville

08691. Joseph Mo, chairman, CEO, and president. 609-208-9688; fax,

609-208-1868. E-mail: nexmedla@aol.com. Home page: http://www.nexmed.com.


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