Some Treatment Should Be Not-For-Profit
Posted by Trevor on 4 December 2012 | 1 Comment
I’m living proof that the American dream is alive and well, but at one time the possibility for me seemed remote. We were a dirt-poor family, and I was raised in a derelict farmhouse in Wales. My shabby clothes and English accent made me a target for bullies in the town. The one place my tormentors wouldn’t go was the public library. I spent hours there reading the stories of self-made people like Madame Walker and Samuel Colt who had similar starts in life but had found a way out. I also had a real-life hero living with me: my mother. From her, I learned that you can create your own reality.
She was given six months to live when I was eight. She told the doctors that wasn’t long enough. She said she wouldn’t die until her three children were safely out of the nest. My mother kept her word through fourteen years of surgeries, debilitating treatments, and constant pain, and I have kept her dying wish that her example of unshakeable belief turn my ordinary life into an extraordinary adventure.
My mother, Audrey Dawick, handled her illness with grace. I never heard her complain once, and she refused to react in the negative way those around her expected. Yet, sometimes the terrible side effects of the medicines used to combat her cancer robbed her of dignity. It is hard to tell a good joke while vomiting into a bowl, although she still tried. It is testing to remain positive while your hair is falling out, although she even had the doctors try on a selection of wigs just to lighten the mood in the hospital ward. Her story is summarized in Three Simple Steps and in the free chapter available on this blog.
I have met many people since who also felt that the side effects of their treatment were harder to deal with than the illness itself, and for many years I have been passionate about developing drugs that are as effective, but without the side effects. It is no easy task. No one believed it possible, and no one wanted to invest in the idea.
Regardless, I founded a company called ANU in 2006, with the intention of developing drugs that are similar to those used in the current treatments of cancer, but without the side effects. My profits from the sale of “Three Simple Steps” are going directly into that program.
ANU is the Irish Goddess of Plenty. In the beginning it was Anu who watered the first Oak tree Bile from the heavens and granted life to the earth. From the tree fell two acorns which Anu nurtured as her own, and in turn they became the God Dagda with the power to kill yet bring back to life and Brighid, Goddess of therapy. It is an apt description of my intention with the company.
ANU is a virtual company with no employees and no facilities. There are no salaries, bonuses, office leases or expenses. Every cent goes directly into the contracted laboratory, and a team of world-renowned oncology scientists coordinates the work. The first compound in development, A.D.1, is named after my mother. Of all the great adventures and experiences that the Three Simple Steps have given me, I am proudest of this one thing.
One of the challenges that we face in pharmaceutical drug development is that in the last decade many pharmaceutical companies have conglomerated. Small companies have been bought by mid-size companies, and mid-size companies have now been bought by large companies. What this does is sort of reduce innovative research and development programs, because early stages of development typically start in small companies that are run by scientists or physicians whose only desire in life is to find cures for diseases. When those smaller companies are bought out by the larger firms, the driving force of intentions shifts to those of shareholders. While these shareholders might say that they care about finding cures for diseases, they care more about making a profit on their shares. That is why they bought them. Consequently, the company’s future decisions are made with share price increase in mind.
When your goal is profit, however, you can’t always make decisions based on good science; you have to make decisions based on market potential. I think that most pharmaceutical companies and their executives are caught between these two dilemmas of wanting to do the right thing for patients and having to do the right thing for the shareholders. The consequence is that many promising innovations get left on the shelf because the cost of turning them into a useful treatment may be more than the profits to be gained on the market. It is commonly stated that it takes up to $800 million to turn a scientific idea into a marketable, FDA-approved drug. Maybe, but a good portion of that budget goes to pay for big salaries, armies of employees, and impressive office facilities. There is a more cost-effective way to develop cancer treatments, and ANU is the pioneer for it.