You have been appointed as the CEO of Orexo in 2013. Since then, the company has been growing significantly, so can you highlight to our international readers what have been the milestones since you have taken over as the CEO?

When I joined Orexo in 2011, the company already had a strategy of commercializing its developed products independently. As the CEO in 2013, I focused on creating a commercial unit and driving the company’s growth. One of the pivotal moments came in 2013 when we received FDA approval for our product Zubsolv, which treats opioid addiction. We built our US commercial operations from scratch, aiming to control our own destiny through revenues, cashflow, and profit. We became profitable in 2016, setting us apart from most other Swedish pharmaceutical companies. Winning a patent battle against Actavis was also a crucial milestone, as it protected Zubsolv and provided a foundation for further development. Today, Orexo is a fully integrated, profitable pharma company with a strong cash position and our own commercialization capabilities.

Orexo won a lengthy and costly patent battle against Actavis last year. Why was the win so important for the company?

Our patent litigation case with Actavis regarding Zubsolv, our main product generating over 80% of our revenues, was critical for Orexo. A generics threat could have had a significant impact on our business. However, our patent was validated in the federal court, securing its validity until 2032. This win provided assurance that Zubsolv can continue to be the foundation for our future development. The settlement of the case brought relief to the entire company, as the process was draining and put many projects on hold. With the patent upheld, we can now launch more products using the same commercial infrastructure, reducing operational costs and creating synergies. This victory allows us to pursue more advanced projects and explore new opportunities.

In 2016, Opioid addiction was declared a public health priority. What has been Orexo’s approach in addressing the unmet medical need to treat addiction and proposing a holistic solution to this issue?

Orexo recognizes the severity of the opioid crisis and has taken significant responsibility in finding solutions beyond what is typically expected of a company our size. We identified a major bottleneck in treatment access, where physicians were limited to treating 100 patients for opioid addiction. This posed a dilemma as doctors risked their license if they treated more patients, yet they were ethically compelled to help. In 2016, Orexo launched a lobby campaign in Washington DC to extend the number of patients that doctors could treat from 100 to 275. Our efforts received support from both Senators and Representatives from both parties, with President Obama acknowledging our role in the process. This successful advocacy allowed more patients to receive the treatment they needed and showcased how a small Swedish company influenced policy changes in the US.

Your star product Zubsolv received FDA approval in 2013. What do you see as the next development milestones to be achieved in the US market moving forward?

While Zubsolv addressed the opioid crisis of that time, the landscape has shifted, with synthetic opioids like fentanyl causing more deaths. Addicts now mix heroin with these synthetics, making it difficult to control the dose and leading to overdoses. Orexo’s drug candidate, OX124, aims to address this challenge by providing a new treatment approach. However, since the solution involves a device, we partnered with a US manufacturer to develop it to our specifications. Our approach is to identify problems and determine whether we can solve them internally or with external expertise. Although our main focus is the US market, there may be future opportunities in Europe and other parts of the world where our drugs could be needed. Hence, we are open to partnerships for commercialization in markets outside the US.

Sweden is renowned for its excellence in medical research. How does Orexo leverage this outstanding academic research landscape to find treatments for unmet medical needs?

Sweden’s innovation-friendly environment has played a significant role in our success. Orexo develops all its products in Uppsala, benefiting from the excellent academic environment at the University of Uppsala’s Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Chemistry school. Uppsala has a strong history in chemistry and formulation, providing us with valuable resources. While the US is our main market, the competition for talent and employment costs are higher there compared to Sweden. Being a prominent player in Uppsala enables us to retain talent by offering freedom and a favorable work-life balance. Orexo serves as a local company with global ambitions, hoping to inspire other companies to follow a similar path.

You have unique experience, having worked at Boston Consulting Group and Pfizer Inc. How have you leveraged these experiences to make Orexo the success it is today?

My background has always revolved around life sciences, influenced by my father’s role as a medical professor and my mother being a nurse. Working at Boston Consulting Group exposed me to healthcare and life sciences, leading me to join Pfizer. These experiences provided me with a broad perspective and understanding of different industries and business cases. At Pfizer, I focused on commercialization and marketing, gaining insights into the pharma industry. When I joined Orexo, I had to adapt to a holistic perspective as the CEO, which required integrating my previous experiences while overseeing various aspects of the business, including commercialization, manufacturing, and R&D.

What key milestones would you like to achieve in the next three to five years?

In the coming years, I envision Orexo expanding its portfolio within opioid addiction while also branching out into new areas. Many patients suffering from opioid addiction also experience other CNS conditions, such as pain or psychiatric disorders. Therefore, it seems natural for Orexo to move into the CNS field and develop a platform that overlaps with our current target and patient groups. We aim to have a broader portfolio and explore growth opportunities through innovation and strategic expansion. By doing so, we hope to continue addressing unmet medical needs and making a positive impact on patients’ lives.

You may also be interested in...