BioBoss

#15 - Antony Mattessich: CEO of Ocular Therapeutix

January 05, 2020 John Simboli Season 2 Episode 2
BioBoss
#15 - Antony Mattessich: CEO of Ocular Therapeutix
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BioBoss
#15 - Antony Mattessich: CEO of Ocular Therapeutix
Jan 05, 2020 Season 2 Episode 2
John Simboli

"If you're a CEO, and you're doing things that are repetitive, then you're probably not doing your job." - Antony Mattessich, CEO of Ocular Therapeutix

Show Notes Transcript

"If you're a CEO, and you're doing things that are repetitive, then you're probably not doing your job." - Antony Mattessich, CEO of Ocular Therapeutix

A. Mattessich:

If you're a CEO and you're doing things that are repetitive, then you're probably not doing your job.

John Simboli:

That's the voice of Antony Mattessich, CEO of Ocular Therapeutix. Listen in now to hear my conversation with Antony at Ocular Therapeutix headquarters in Bedford, Massachusetts. I'm John Simboli. You're listening to BioBoss. This morning I'm in Bedford with Antony Mattessich, President and CEO of Ocular Therapeutix. Antony , how did you find yourself here at Ocular Therapeutix?

A. Mattessich:

Originally I was looking for acquisitions for a company that I was working with and I was looking for a a delivery technology that could hold on to a monoclonal antibody because I'd built a fairly large biosimilars business in Europe. And the goal was actually to start building biobetters and there aren't many things, actually, that will hold onto a monoclonal antibody and the hydrogel—I was really just enamored with how it was capable of pretty much holding onto anything. Either you can micro-encapsulate it as free drug, or if it's a large molecule, it just sort of sits in the meshwork of the hydrogel. So my first interest is I wanted to buy the company. I mean, I knew that they were looking for a CEO because the gentleman who had started the company had a brilliant device background, but had kind of grown beyond his experience level and the original founder, Amar, , who was CEO at that point, after talking with him about potential acquisitions, he basically convinced me that I should join rather than b uy. And I was at a stage in my life where I was turning 50, and the water was warm where I was, I was running a multibillion dollar company with thousands of employees and a lot of inertia, momentum, and it was one of those questions where you decide, hey, if I don't do it now, I'm probably never going to do it. So it was a bit of a leap into the unknown and it's something that really makes you realize that the things you took for granted in life when you come to an environment like a fledgling biotech,.

John Simboli:

Was it one of those things where you looked and you looked and you thought, Oh, finally I found this thing that fits this description, what I'm thinking about doing? Or was it more like, Oh, here it is?

A. Mattessich:

I'd always had the understanding, I'd been where I was at Mundipharma for 13 years and I was the CEO of the company, so there wasn't much left to do at Mundipharma., Although it was a dynamic business and we built all sorts of different areas that we could grow. But the thought of actually challenging myself, kind of coming to to something that was entirely different and that had no momentum, was intriguing and also the thought of potentially coming back to the, to the U.S. was something that was, that was also a marginally attractive. But the thing about Ocular that really kind of sealed the deal for me was that I thought that I knew what was wrong. I thought that I knew what I could do with the company. What I didn't want to do was come to a company that had, , brilliant science, that basically was a binary situation where either the science worked or it didn't. And my job as the CEO was just sort of to sit under my desk in the fetal position, sucking my thumb, hoping the science worked. Whereas Ocular was something where, Hey, I know what's wrong and I know the applications of the technology that I think I can leverage. So it just felt more like I could actually make a difference here.

John Simboli:

Once you made that decision and got it underway and you realized that it really could be what you hoped it will be, did you go through that experience I've heard from a couple of CEOs of "Why didn't I do this before? " Or it was a more like, Oh this is the right thing at the right time?

A. Mattessich:

I had such a rich experience before with Mundipharma. I mean when I first came there we had one product that was 200 million Euro across Europe. When I left we were about 1.5 billion and we had four different therapeutic areas and that was thrilling to be able to build a business like that from scratch because there was nothing there really when I got there, nothing, in the areas that we grew in. So I wouldn't have wanted to not have that experience but what I didn't realize was how short my window was, that if I would've waited another couple of years , I don't know if I could have done it. And as I was mentioning earlier, when you have that switch where you, you've built a comfortable world for yourself and you're in your early fifties and your kids are in college and you feel like you're on a kind of a glide path to a very comfortable retirement and you come into a company like Ocular that had two CRLs and actually the second CRL we got in my first week here there is that terror, which you haven't experienced in years and it seems to hit you about five o'clock in the morning and you kind of wake up and you're supposed to get an extra hour worth of sleep, but you can't because the mind starts racing You think of all the things that can go wrong and you start to worry. And then as the day goes on, you have your coffee, you feel better and then you feel excited, you feel energized,, you think like, wow, this is a thrill. But it's a roller coaster and it takes a long time before you realize that how bad can things actually get. And then you also think about my God, little little improvements, little successes can build huge opportunities in the future. So when you're selling nothing, the chance of selling something is a lot. When you start out the year with a billion and a half worth of sales and there's a price decrease in France and you have $150 million hole to, to start out the year before you can even grow at 1% i s a very different feeling.

John Simboli:

How did you decide you wanted to lead a biopharma company?

A. Mattessich:

Where I was in my career, it was sort of the next step. I mean, I was done with big pharma. I'd spent the first 13 years of my career in big pharma and in BMS, Novartis and Merck, decided that that model felt kind of tired to me so I joined a privately held company, a large company though. So I that that was also a different experience and also a very rewarding one. But I knew I wasn't going back to big pharma. I knew that I didn't want to be as removed from the businesses I was with with with a multibillion dollar company. So really the only pathway left other than going back and getting my PhD and trying to be a professor was to run a biotech. And so it was a natural movement. And in retrospect it was absolutely the right one. But you don't know what you don't know before you jump into it. And part of it for me was also wanting to be in a publicly traded or publicly listed company. And now I sort of think why did I want that? Because it's not an easy world. And I've learned a lot about how to position the company, how to speak to investors. I mean Ocular is a company that first of all shouldn't be named Ocular because, our platform technology is usable in any part of the body. And to me it just lights up my brain to think about how many opportunities we can have that are m ultibillion dollar opportunities to use with our delivery technology. But you realize that you have such a small portion of, of the investment c ommunity's brain and they see you as an ophthalmology delivery technology company. So you need to deliver on that before you can play in any other space and you can scream about the unfairness of the whole thing. And you look at other companies that have I believe, inferior technologies that are looking at these fabulous valuations because they h appen to be in the right space and they h appen to connect with a certain view of investors that puts them in a different category. So I've had to frustratingly r ealize that I need to go a little slower than I thought I would have to go. Because you have to deliver on the initial premise before you're allowed to expand your value outside of that.

John Simboli:

When you have a presentation you delivered and you explain what the company's about, you must be pleased when they say, Oh yeah, now I understand. There must be other times when they say, Oh yeah, here's what I think it is. And you're thinking yourself now. They didn't hear that. When they didn't hear that and you need to go back and say, no this is actually what it is. What's that conversation like?

A. Mattessich:

It's a very difficult conversation because when they didn't hear it,, they really don't want to listen to something different. That is the thing I did not anticipate coming to a publicly traded company was, the cacophony of voices that are in the marketplace. I mean , before I was was in privately held company and we had a captive board and that board could listen for days if you really wanted to explain something, you could ensure that you had an audience that was going to listen to what it was you were thinking about. Here you have a very narrow window., It's like trying to get a golf ball in the hole. And if you've gone past the hole, you can't move the hole . You've got to take another stroke and that makes it very difficult. So what I've discovered, you kind of need to do is you need to anticipate what they're expecting to hear and don't go too far afield from that. And there's a lot of things that we're working on and have potential for that we just don't talk about. Because when you do, it just blows the category. People think, no, you're a specialty pharma, you're in launch mode and you're going to live or die off that launch. And the fact that you can work in gene therapies with your technology is something that just doesn't compute. So, I've given up thinking that I can make somebody understand and it's all about delivery and making sure that you can execute on what they expect and then you earn the right to be able to go somewhere else.

John Simboli:

When people who don't know you say, A ntony, what do you do for a living? What do you say?

A. Mattessich:

My top line is I work in a biotech company. But what do I actually do? And what is the job of a CEO . . . I would say when you're a CEO, you're like at the bottom of a building that has sort of faulty flooring and the floors above are designed to actually hold the occupants of that building. But things fall through, they fall from one floor to another and they fall all the way down sometimes to the basement. You're sitting there i n the basement, very often you see something fall into the basement and you think there's a problem with a floor somewhere above. So you've got to go where that thing has fallen. You look above and you find out where that hole is and then you fix the hole. If you're a CEO and you're doing things that are repetitive, then you're probably not doing your job. But your job is to design a building to design an organization that is capable of doing the things that it needs to do and t hat things don't fall to the ground. And that's where biotech is frightening because you come in and things are falling all over the place. You can't thoughtfully fix those holes and you very often don't have the cash to be able to fix them in the way you want. So you do a lot of duct taping and once you do the machine runs for a while, but it inevitably breaks down. And that's where I think I add the most value. The rest of it is really just talking to investors and trying to give the story of the company. So you spend a lot of time being a storyteller to people who are hopefully going to invest in your company and give you the resources to be able to fix the holes. But you've got to do both. If you're not fixing the holes and you're giving a story to the investors, then it's disingenuous because you're not building a machine that's actually going to going to do what it needs to do. And unfortunately, I think in the environment, a lot of people don't care if the machine is actually going to produce in the end. They just want to make it look good enough to be able to be sold on. And that's the end game. Whereas I've always had the sense that it doesn't matter if you not building a product that will make a difference, then you're sort of running a scam. And maybe we get taken out before we can do that, but that's not the goal and that's not the understanding and we won't sort of make shortcuts to try and make ourselves look better for a potential sort of acquisition rather than than actually building something that's differentiated in the market.

John Simboli:

On the one hand, I think it's quite accurate based on my experience working with CEOs that that there's a whack a mole aspect to a part of the job—fix it, fix it. There's also, one hopes, that at some point there's the opportunity to have the vision I think you were starting to describe of "I could design a building where this was still happening but it wouldn't happen very frequently Is that a fair analogy? The vision part of it?

A. Mattessich:

Absolutely. In the classic sense, all you need to do as a CEO is you need to make sure the company's headed in the right direction. And you need to make sure, that you have the right people in the right places and that there's resources available for the machine to run. You do those three things, you have a company that's successful, That's a lot easier said than done because you think you've done it. And that's when, the stuff starts falling on the basement floor. But, the goal is, and certainly is one of the things I realized I think in retrospect, almost what I what I would've done in taking over the company is rebranded because we had to rebuild it from inside. Of the top 10 executives, eight of them are new. We had to totally revamp our production facilities in order to be able to get the approval of our lead drug. I mean, it was essentially an entire rebuild effort. But from the outside it says, well, Ocular has been at this for 10 years and it's been a series of disappointments for the first , eight or nine of those years. And it's very hard then to explain. It's like, well , we've actually have a whole new team and it's the same basic technology. But what we've done with it and how we build it and how we develop it is completely different. People have long memories when it hurts you and they have short memories when it hurts you. And it depends on what they're reacting to when they decide to either tar you with the brush of the distant past or basically say that they don't have any experience with you as a new management team. But it's been a great learning experience and I think, as I said, if I had it to do over again, , there may be some adjustments that we do. But being in a position where we are now, it's fantastic how much has gone right to be here and to put us in a position to finally sort of demonstrate that work . The machine we built is actually going to produce something of value.

John Simboli:

What have you learned over the years in. previous jobs and probably especially here about what your management style is, what works for you?

A. Mattessich:

I think anybody who works with me would say, , Antony's management style is that he's desperately trying to find the best person for the job. I set up the organization, set up the structure the way I believe it should be set up, but if you don't people i t properly, then it's simply not g oing t o function. And part of putting the right people in the right places means that y ou g ot t o give them the freedom to be able to perform their jobs. And I'm very much what I see t hen as an obstacle remover. So I put the right person in the right job and say, look, if you need my help, I'm here. But otherwise I'm not. And that can be frustrating to people when they sort of say, well, they want constant feedback. They want they want direction. I think at the level that I'm at and the people who I hire in should be able to make clarity out of ambiguity and they should be energized by that. That is if you find the right people and you have the right structure, that works brilliantly. If the structure is unclear and you choose the wrong people, it's a disaster. So that's why I spend most of my energy making sure I have the right people in the right places. And once I have that, I let go with the proviso that we're all headed in the same direction. So we have a unified strategy and a n understanding of where the company's headed. We have a structure that doesn't have overlaps and y ou have the right people in the right places and they're given enough autonomy to do their jobs. Because if I'm so absolutely passionate about having the right person in the right place, if I don't give them the accountability and the freedom to do what they need to do, how do I know if I have the right person in the right place? And that was one of the things that was most jarring, I think about taking over Ocular. The previous gentleman was always the smartest guy in the room. And my goal was to never be the smartest guy in the room. And I'm actually pretty successful at that in general. But because he was always the smartest guy in the room and he was the original entrepreneur who started the company, it was very much a sort of a hub and spoke kind of management that you went to him to solve your problems. And as long as you got his agreement on something, you had the autonomy to do it regardless of whether it was the right thing to do or whether it was your job to do. And I come in and I'm completely the opposite, which is I don't want people to come back to me unless they have to. And , and I will only make decisions that I'm the only one who can make that decision. And there are actually very few decisions that only the CEO can make. So if it's something about what names do we put on the meeting rooms or what kind of coffee maker do we have? It's remarkable how many people feel that, well, because they're the CEO. they should make the best decision in those circumstances. And I believe, very disciplined to say, well, am I the best person to make this decision and would it not be better for the person closest to that responsibility to make that decision? So the company was in a bit of shock when you have somebody that is willing and able and very sort of, almost aggressive about making sure that they had a hand in every decision that was made to somebody who really doesn't want to be involved in those things because they believe that you have put the right person in that place to make those decisions. It doesn't mean I won't talk with them and I don't, I don't give people my counsel , but the people should feel that sense of responsibility and accountability and that's where I think people get energized, that makes people want to come to work in the morning and want to make a difference.

John Simboli:

I wish I couild remember, but there was a CEO I read about, not someone I've talked to, someone I read about who said I'm the rim and spoke. People can come out to me and touch me if they need to. But otherwise, . . .

A. Mattessich:

If we have the right direction, we have the right people in the right places and the right resources, then then my job is to remove obstacles. If people know what they're doing and we're headed in the right direction, and they run into a problem that they can't get past, that's where I provide my greatest value. So I guess it's the same kind of analogy of being in the basement of the building, but that, that kind of leadership is the only way I can survive. I think I've been around long enough unfortunately to probably know enough to get myself into trouble in certain areas. So I do question and when we have our meetings and discussions, there's a lot of like, are you sure you want to do it that way? Or I've seen it happen this way. But in the end I think everybody who works with me would say that I'm very disciplined about saying if it's their decision to make, then they make it. And I'm happy, to sort of voice my concerns and consternation that they're making that decision, but I respect their right to make it.

John Simboli:

And that takes courage because sometimes they're going to be wrong because human beings are sometimes wrong.

A. Mattessich:

Right. And how you react to that failure is culturally one of the most important things you can do. If you react too strongly, then I would say it's like getting a cat out of a tree that you can make all these nice motions about what kind of culture you want and the cat can slowly move out of the tree. But then one short, sharp, quick violent movement, the cat's up there forever. So you really need to know how you respond to these things and what the cultural impact of that response is.

John Simboli:

Can you remember when you were eight or nine having any kind of self image about what you wanted to be when you were a grownup?

A. Mattessich:

I don't know about eight or nine, but also b ecause I had k ids who just recently sort of gone through university about what I want, what I thought about my future at various times. And I have a pretty good memory of the things I thought as a child and certainly as a young adult. And maybe it was the time or maybe it was, , the environment that I grew up in, but I never thought about what my future was going to be like. I never had, even when I was graduating, my undergraduate, I had no concept of where I thought I wanted to go. I sort of assumed at that point that I was going to go into academia and be a professor because I was in the humanities and the area that I was studying in was fairly esoteric and there wasn't much application outside of an academic environment. And of course here I am in biopharma. So I wound up in a very different space due to lack of planning. And I think actually that's what I look for a lot of times i n people. Like a lot of times people will say, well I didn't like the person because they didn't have much ambition or much understanding of where they were headed. And I guess because a lot of times you try and look for yourself in people, which you shouldn't do, b ut, but that's what you wind up doing. I always sort of distrust people who kind of know where they want to go because I feel like they're not g oing t o focus on what they're doing right now. And my entire career has been something where I just, I've k inda gotten fascinated about the stuff that I was doing and didn't think about where I was going. And it's turned out to be a career of sorts, but there's something about throwing yourself into that moment. And I've really searched my brain many times to try and think about what did I think I wanted to be and I can't come up with a single moment where I thought, yeah, that's what I w ant t o do. And it turned out I fell into something that I thoroughly enjoy. And when I first got into the industry, I was always going to go back and get my PhD. I was just going to make a little bit of money in the meantime. And after about 10 years, I realized I'm not going back and get my PhD and I realized that I would be a terrible academic. I'm actually much better working in teams. I guess I do have some understanding about about how a business functions and about how to execute against a goal. So I fell into something that suited me I think perfectly, but there was no planning or forethought. But you go for, some people say, follow your bliss is sort of a trite way to put it, but there's another way to say, well what are you good at that gives you energy? And running a team, doing something together with a group of people I think I'm good at. But it gives me a ton of energy. When you feel like you're making progress with a team, that's exciting and that's where it's like, OK,, that you can't do as an academic. Whereas,, where I thought I was probably going to go, you spend a lot of time alone in the library doing things, that essentially reflect only on you and make very little difference in the world in the end, unless you write some seminal work, in academia, which I doubt I would've been able to do.

John Simboli:

What's new at Ocular therapeutix?

A. Mattessich:

Well , what's new we've got our first drug approved and we're launching it. So we're, we're a commercial entity. But the goal of the company is to leverage our delivery technology in any place where it can deliver a superior therapeutic. And in broad strokes, what we are is we open up therapeutic windows because we don't use the blood to move therapeutics around the body. And we're not a delivery technology, we're actually a superior therapeutics company. Because if you can deliver a drug locally, then you actually can open up the potential of that drug. Take the inhaled corticosteroids and LABAs . . .when you try to treat asthma through the blood you can cause more harm than you get benefit. When you deliver it locally in the lungs, then you open up, these same molecules become lifesaving medications. The e ye is very similar to that because you wouldn't want to treat the whole body to treat the eye. And that's why we have these bizarre things i n e yedrops which are unbelievably inefficient and people don't use them. They hate them. They very often use them incorrectly. So the company has started where it makes sense, which is in the eye because delivering drugs locally in the eye, makes a lot of sense. And we figured out different ways to use our technology to deliver drugs in the eye. But if you can formulate for the eye, you can formulate anywhere in the body. You can use eyedrops in your nose or in any other part of the body. But if you try and use things formulated in other parts of the body for your eye, you're g oing t o notice that there's a, there's a problem.

John Simboli:

So that, to me, that is a telling clear description of why Ocular Therapeutic is not simply a delivery company. And that the local aspect of what you're talking about makes it into a therapeutics company. When you say that to potential investors and they don't quite understand, what do they hear when you say that them?

A. Mattessich:

Well , they hear that you're going to spend a lot of money and you're going to do a big raise, so I better short you. We don't sort of talk to investors actively about that now. We have sort of a vague notion that's like, okay, there are applications in pain and inflammation and ENT. There's also potentials in delivering of gene therapies and antisense technologies. But we soft pedal that. We realized that what's new about Ocular or in people's minds, what's new about Ocular is we are a biotech company that's launching its own product into the U.S.market. And there is a there's a long history, or not long, a fairly recent history of a lot of failures of these biotech companies launching their own products in the space. And we are under that sort of microscope now where we've been selling since July 15 and people are falling over everything we say about this launch because we have a massive short position, which is sort of expecting us to fail. We have some believers sitting in a long environment where they're expecting us to be able to kind of turn this around. And we realized that's what we're going to be judged on. So that's what we talk about. We talk about what it's going to take to be successful in this space. I mean, my background is commercial, so I wouldn't launch a drug that I didn't think had a great opportunity to be successful. I think a lot of these failures are caused because you have people who've never been through that commercial process before. They're great scientists that think that great science is going to be rewarded simply because it exists. And I understand, I think pretty deeply about what it takes to change behavior. And, it's not easy. Even if it's obviously a better thing and there are obvious advantages to the patient and from the payer side there are advantages, you still need to actually change behavior. And nobody's staying awake at night to help you sell your drug unless you're paying them to do it. So that's what's new. But, underneath that,, we're moving everything along in a nice sort of deliberate fashion. So we have two phase one programs that are finishing up their first cohorts that are industry changing. I mean they are paradigm shifting in their potential to change. . . One is injections into the back of the eye for wet AMD. The o ther is the treatment of glaucoma. And deeper behind that we have a number of formulations that are ready to go into the clinic both inside and outside of the eye that will deliver superior therapeutics. Because we're not a delivery company. We're a company that creates superior therapeutics. Sometimes with existing molecules in a 505(b)(2), but there's no reason why we have to stick with 505(b)(2) and we're not., There are programs that we have that are working with novel mechanisms of action and new molecules, but we soft pedal those because we realize, it's about our launch and it's about proving that we can be successful i n launching a product where so many other biotech companies have failed.

John Simboli:

For that percentage, presumably relatively small, who hears what you just said to me and says, "Ah, this has potential to be quite a bit more than I thought it might have been." Do they in turn say, yeah, but you're a small company. How can you take on all these things? And if you get that question, how do you answer it?

A. Mattessich:

Because we are a delivery technology company, w e don't bear the risk of new molecule creation. And that's really where the big money is. So we can actually very inexpensively and easily formulate almost anything to go anywhere in the body. And we can bring it up to IND f or $2-3 million dollars I mean the ability for us to get to an IND is actually very, very easy. Getting into larger clinical trials, that's different. So what we can do and what the model is, w e have actually two models of how we're creating value. One is w here we have a direct front of the eye business in the U.S., which actually, I see, as opportunistic. That's not really part of our strategy. I t's just that that market is so concentrated and we have such a nice gross margin in a very unusual space that it makes sense for us to do it ourselves, we can actually capture more value that way,. But we are a platform company that I see really as developing more along the lines of a Halozyme type company where we actually can add to the pipeline. We get things through proof of concept and then we out-license them globally. So somebody else carries the burden of the later phase two, phase three programs and commercialization. We get an upfront downstream royalty and then we go back and do more. One thing that makes us very unusual is that we have a hundred ideas of what we can do and probably 95 of them will work. The problem is we lack the resources and capacity to be able to bring them all through. So what I'd rather do, rather than hold onto something for a long time, have it burn a lot of resources and then hopefully make $1 billion in the future, I'd rather get them off the deck early and then sort of license them out, get some upfronts and then plow it back into new technologies. And that's also very difficult for investors to understand from a biotech company because usually you have two or three assets that are either around a certain receptor or molecule type. And if you don't handle those three appropriately, then you're impairing the value of the company. With us, it's very, very different because we can add so easily to our pipeline and it's not like we're going into new areas that we don't understand because we're formulators, we know how to formulate molecules. If one happens to be used for inflammation, another happens to be used in ophthalmics, one is used for pain, another fits in the intraperitoneal space, that's actually something that the downstream companies can do. So the formulation of a product, regardless of where it is, is the same bit of work.

John Simboli:

That strategy would make sense to me. Now, obviously I'm not an investor, but I'm thinking, without that we're taking in partners to do it, I can imagine you'd be up against the folks who say, yeah, I want to talk to a company that has—I know this is phrase I hear frequently, " a pipeline in a molecule". I just want this simple, right?

A. Mattessich:

Right. And so for the majority of people who trade and . . . there are investors, I think our core investors understand what we're trying to build, but, the trading investors, so where we are at the moment, it's all Dextenza, We are a biotech company launching our own product with less than a year's worth of cash. There are people who are on one side of that bet and there are people who are on the other side of that bet. And that's what I realized when I go out, that's what people want to hear about. So that's what we tell them about.

John Simboli:

Anthony. Why did Ocular Therapeutix choose to locate in Bedford, Massachusetts?

A. Mattessich:

Well, we do all of our own formulation and manufacturing. So we need space. And this is as close as you can get to the Kendall Square kind of environment and get sufficient space that doesn't cost an arm and a leg. So this is, this is sort of in the sphere but, but still with reasonable rents.

John Simboli:

So let's talk about the sphere a little bit. The Boston, Kendall square, Cambridge, Bedford, greater Boston. Which organizations do you find yourself, either you or your staff being involved with it where you can help to get your story out and also learn about what other folks are doing?

A. Mattessich:

I have to say, I'm disappointed with the connection that we've had to real innovation that's going on with within the sort of the biotech sphere. Our heritage is a device heritage and as a device company you think very, very different than a biopharma company. And coming in here, one of the goals was to connect for the first time with the biopharma world. I mean, the big dreams of what we can use our technology for are , aren't limited to 505(b)(2) and to the environments where our later stage pipeline is. We can hold onto a gene vector. If you can co-locate a gene vector, to the cells that you really want to transduct for long enough, you're likely to have a greater efficacy and lower inflammation potential. We can hold on to antisense technologies. We can ensure that they're delivered over a longer period of time in a more specific location. Because if you're starting to change a gene expression, you don't want that ubiquitously in the body. You really want that local. So that's the value that we see ourselves bringing in the future. And we've had discussions with companies in the space, but because we've really got to get the wolf away from the door with Dextenza, so we really focus our resources on that primarily. But that's also a proof of concept that as we develop that and we have a collaboration with Regeneron for example, with Eylea, with a VEGF trap that also starts building credibility in that we can hold onto proteins and we can deliver them where they need to be delivered. But we do need to connect more directly with that world.

John Simboli:

So the shorthand for that world in this area, I think for a lot of companies is MassBio. Are there connections to be made where a device company that's actually a therapeutics company can be heard? Or is it too much oriented towards the molecule side ?

A. Mattessich:

No, The first 15 years of my life I was, I was in a molecule company and I understand how molecule companies think. And then I was essentially in a molecule/delivery company in t he privately held company that I was at. NS delivery companies think very differently. And that's why it's very important for us to position ourselves not as a delivery company, but as a superior therapeutics company. Because I think the example of the LABAs and the ICSs for delivery into the lungs, if you deliver them differently, you actually have a different therapeutic and molecule companies just think that, well, d elivery i s easy and molecules are the difficult bit. And if there's something you don't like about what the molecule is doing, you don't think about changing the delivery that could reopen the window. You think about changing the molecule, which is unbelievably expensive and takes a huge amount of time and actually can, can destroy a company if they have to head in a different direction. So getting in people's minds, getting in molecule people's minds about now how do I deliver a superior therapeutic which is a combination between molecule and delivery is a paradigm that's really hard to shift, to get over with molecule companies. And that's where we need to have continuing dialogues with the molecule originators. And we are, we're getting into some really nice discussions with companies who are starting to understand that. But the problem is when you go back to resource allocation, do I put this money behind a new molecule or do I put it behind a delivery technology? Even though the delivery technology will deliver a superior therapeutic in a shorter period of time with with less money, you still wind up thinking, well I really want to throw the Hail Mary with the molecule. And that's a learning process where having success in the marketplace is the way to answer that. And I think thankfully, we've got some things that in relatively short order will demonstrate that, actually, changing the delivery makes a different therapeutic regardless of what the molecule is.

John Simboli:

When you want to go have a conversation with people who are likeminded, are there places you go or organizations that you're a member of? Are there CEOs that you call up or do they tend to be around the partner kinds of discussions you were just describing to me?

A. Mattessich:

Usually molecule companies focus themselves around therapeutic areas. So those conversations are really easy to have in ophthalmology and we're in a number of those discussions in ophthalmology. But getting into a new therapeutic area because companies, they don't organize themselves by thinking of a delivery technology or not. They say, well, if you have a pain division, what s that p ain division looking at and what are the problems t hey're experiencing with their molecules? So getting into those discussions outside of ophthalmology is difficult because we haven't been able to establish a beachhead as a company that can deliver solutions in that therapeutic area.

John Simboli:

Anthony, thanks for speaking with me today.

A. Mattessich:

Well, thanks for coming a nd t alking t o me. I really appreciate it.

John Simboli:

During my BioBoss interviews with founders and CEOs, I'm always interested to hear their origin story, how each person became the leader of a biopharma company. For some, it's a clearly marked path leading in a straight line from a youthful fascination with science to a leadership role in biopharma. For others, there's a realization, they have a calling, a strong pull toward a profession they had not anticipated. When I heard Antony talking about his journey from humanities student to CEO, I thought of the same—follow your bliss. Antony took that a step further by adding, "What are you good at? That gives you energy? Where your fascination with what you're doing means you throw yourself into the moment? For Antony,, the answer is clear. His energy comes from directing teams who make progress together. Like many of the other leaders I've spoken with, he couldn't be happier with his choice. I'm John Simboli. You're listening to BioBoss.