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"
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.
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.
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
08691. Joseph Mo, chairman, CEO, and president. 609-208-9688; fax,
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.