BioBoss

#25 - Nikolaj Sørensen: CEO of Orexo

August 29, 2020 John Simboli Season 2 Episode 11
BioBoss
#25 - Nikolaj Sørensen: CEO of Orexo
Show Notes Transcript

Nikolaj Sørensen, CEO of Orexo Therapeutics, shares his thoughts with BioBoss host John Simboli about leadership and, digital and bio-therapeutics, how the coronavirus is changing the landscape around mental health, depression, substance abuse and addiction,


Nikolaj Sørensen  0:05  
If a leader doesn't really genuinely believe in where you're taking the company that will come through and you won't get the team with you. But if you genuinely believe that what we're doing is the right thing people will listen. 

John Simboli  0:16  
That's the voice of Nikolai Sorenson, CEO of Orexo Therapeutics. Listen in now to hear my conversation with Nikolaj, his thoughts on leadership, and how Orexo is helping patients with substance use and mental health disorders.

John Simboli  0:32  
 I'm John Simboli. You're listening to BioBoss. 

John Simboli  0:37  
Today I'm speaking with Nikolaj Sørensen, CEO of Orexo, headquartered in Uppsala, Sweden. Nikolaj, welcome to BioBoss..

Nikolaj Sørensen  0:45  
Thank you, john. I'm happy to be here.

John Simboli  0:47  
How did you find yourself as CEO at Orexo?

Nikolaj Sørensen  0:50  
I feel now like I'm coming home. Being at Orexo, t's a very small company. My background is I worked with two very large U.S.-based companies. I work with Pfizer, I worked with Boston Consulting Group and coming to a small Swedish company who, when I joined, were basically a research organization. And being able to turn it around, it's been a big pleasure. And I think today my personality has quite a lot of association with Orexo and, of course, I've been the CEO now for six years. So where Orexo is today is very much my fault but I guess I can take some credit also.

John Simboli  1:28  
Did you foresee this as an aspect of your career? Earlier in life did you say , "Yeah, I'll probably end up being a CEO at some point?"

Nikolaj Sørensen  1:36  
When I was, I think 12-13 years old, my primary school had this theme week where you could take different positions in virtual companies. And you could choose whether you want to be a chef and serve lunch or whether you would do different sports sessions and others, but I chose to become the CEO. So I took on my father's way too big suit, and a tie and then I was the CEO for a week. So I guess, since then, when I was 12-13 years old, my destiny has been given. So I am an MBA from Copenhagen Business School and I think the business world has been my target since quite a young age. 

John Simboli  2:20  
How did you decide that If you're going to be a CEO, there's going to be of a biopharma company, or is that just a natural progression? 

Nikolaj Sørensen  2:27  
Ithink it's coming a little by chance. So my first job after business school was at Boston Consulting Group, and when I worked at Boston Consulting Group, we just happened to have quite a lot of work with life science in Stockholm office. And when you suddenly get down on that track, and in the beginning, there was more due to I got allocated to that track, but the more I worked on that the more specialized I got. So to leave Boston Consulting Group and take a leadership position in a pharmaceutical company became quite natural because I had worked a lot in life science. But I could have probably started in Boston Consulting Group and worked in financial services or manufacturing and maybe I would have been sitting in a different place. But that said, I do come from a family where my father is a professor in medicine. My mother is a nurse, my sister's a psychologist. So I've grown up in a life science environment, you can say.

John Simboli  3:26  
So you must have been, I'm just guessing, exposed to many, many different companies in life sciences through your consulting work. When you were thinking, seeing a path forward towards directing one, towards being the CEO, did you find yourself sifting through hundreds and hundreds or did one or two quickly make their way to the fore? Was it clear where you wanted to be?

Nikolaj Sørensen  3:47  
I think my first career paths going into the life science sector came though Pfizer. So I started working with Pfizer in Sweden. First in a business development-like role. They had just acquired Pharmacia and needed to do this post merger integration, clean up the portfolio. And I had this rather broad mandate, but you can say working more like a consultant with integration of the two companies from the internal side. Then after a few years, I became the Country Manager and Managing Director of Pfizer in Sweden and then I moved to international work for Pfizer in London also. So that Pfizer, that was driven by the event; it came naturally as a consultant to take that kind of role.

Nikolaj Sørensen  3:53  
So as you're coming towards the end of your cycle with Pfizer, which I'm sure could have continued for the rest of your life and many lifetimes afterwards, and you were thinking, you know, I think it's time for me to be the head of a company. At that point, how did that opportunity at Orexo become clear to you

Nikolaj Sørensen  4:52  
Pretty early on, even when I joined Pfizer, I said this is . . . in Pfizer you have a huge budget and there's a lot people, there's a lot of people reporting to you, but you're still a very small piece of a very big machinery. And already in the early stage at Pfizer, I had my eye, so I would like to work with something where I really had a possibility to influence. And maybe that could have happened in Pfizer, also. But that would have taken many years and definitely a lot of moves out from from Sweden. 

Nikolaj Sørensen  5:24  
So I actually talked to several executive search firms to say so if you're looking at my profile, what would it take for me to start to get calls about these executive positions in smaller life science companies? So I can kind of fast tracked my career from being in a Pfizer world responsible for a lot of people but actually in pretty much a middle management level position. And they told me that what you should look for is a company close to commercialization and you should probably accept not to take a CEO position at the first role. So basically, take a small step down before you take a step up. And so when I worked with Pfizer in London, my family was still living in Stockholm, so I kind of commuted to London from Stockholm every week, which maybe for some Americans is not that far. But for us here it's crossing several different borders and countries and it takes a two and a half hour flight each way. So it's a five hour trip door to door and that of course takes a lot of hardship from the family and for me personally. So when when Orexo came with a proposal and said so we have this ambition of becoming a commercial company, we are and R&D company today. Would you like to lead the commercial part as Chief Commercialization Officer, I found that as a good proposition, and they just had some new large investors coming in and in fact it was through one of the investors I got contacted first. So, okay, I said they have the money. They have the products, they have the ambition. If it's anytime, the time is now. So then I jumped ship. But that has been part of my plan for a while. And one of the reasons to take that job, I went from being the Country Manager for Pfizer in Sweden to take a role in London was again back to some of the advice from the executive search firm to say, to sit as a country manager in Sweden, it's very global. It's a small pharma market, but you want to think from a commercial side the benefit is to have more international experience. And when the opportunity arises in Pfizer I moved to London. But as you said, when I when I resigned from Pfizer, I did get some very attractive offers to stay there. So I could probably have stayed with Pfizer today. But I'm very happy from my time with Pfizer and I think even more happy from why we're taking Orexo.

John Simboli  7:52  
Moving from a big pharma company to heading a small one has advantages and disadvantages,  I'm sure, that have to be weighed. To what degree does training that you receive at a large pharma company prepare or not prepare you in your case to make that next step?

Nikolaj Sørensen  8:06  
I think my training both at Boston Consulting Group and also at Pfizer has been hugely helpful and I know there's always some, some consideration what kind of support and development opportunities are provided within the large pharma company. I must say, I feel that Pfizer was very good at identifying really good talents. If you're a very talented person, there's a good chance that Pfizer will find you and they will offer you an extensive amount of training, they will actively work with you on your career path. And I've been sitting on both ends. I've been on the receiving end and I've also been in the end of my career at Pfizer was one of those who helped identify those people we should try to invest in. But like any other company, I think Pfizer is finding, say, the top decile of performers and those are the ones who get the most benefit out of these training programs and relocation programs. And then of course, there's a big group who are not part of that and some of them are probably equally successful and talented but I do think there's a pretty good chance that if you could perform you would be noticed and you will provided good training. 

Nikolaj Sørensen  9:12  
And I think Pfizer gives you that exposure but more importantly I think coming from a European perspective, I think these big U.S. companies give you a kind of confidence. It's a little like when you work at Pfizer, you're king of the hill, and at that time there was no one bigger than us. And that was that the attitude, whatever we touched, we would win. And we had the resources to do that. And I think that attitude is something that probably is worth more than any training session you could have with an HR consultants, or similar.

John Simboli  9:47  
When it came time for you to develop your own approach towards managing people what did you find worked best for you at Orexo?

Nikolaj Sørensen  9:54  
I ha actually more challenging management positions before I joined Pfizer. But the one thing I think I learned in the beginning is, for many years, I was the youngest on my team, even as the manager. That was the truth. When I was managing director of Pfizer, Sweden, I was the youngest in the management team. That actually was the truth also when I came to Orexo. But taking that position, quite early on, one of the things I learned for me and I think everyone has to find a model is to be humble. I remember one of my first meetings as a line manager, I had a team around me where I think the average age was probably 20 plus years older than I was. And as I was in my late 20s, of course, they were twice my age, where I worked. And I had this coming in, new line manager full of ambition. I come from Boston Consulting Group, and of course, I had prepared, I don't know, 50 to 100 PowerPoint slides that I could show about, now, this is what we should do. And I kind of got on my own roll and then afterwards, we did a test of how people are bought into it. And I got one of the worst. And across the company, we have these employee surveys, my team was one of those who had the least buy into the vision and strategy for my group. 

Nikolaj Sørensen  11:19  
And for me that that was a big wake up call, because there's no one else who had prepared as many PowerPoint slides as I had, that's for sure. And what I learned is, I didn't really get people with me. And the importance of actually listening and let people formulate the strategy and vision has been incredibly important and to try to find the time, that most of the time you need to listen and hopefully get the buy in from the people around you. And then everything becomes much more easy. And then I think one of the critical paths for a leader is to decide when it's time to become executive and you're basically taking over because of timelines and others. 

Nikolaj Sørensen  12:01  
But I would say that I'm a relatively good listener. I'm humble, I'm quite aware of where my shortfalls are. There are a lot of people who are much better at chemistry and pharmaceuticals than I am. I maybe have a broader perspective then most but but I think being aware of when you have shortfalls, and actually listen to people to show them that respect, that's something I brought with me I think, is rather work as a team leader to get everyone engaged than being the one who's just running and then, Oh, where did my team go, and I'd better change my team? I think it's more important to get them with me. And maybe that one employee survey was the wake up call I needed to get. So I probably should say thank you for that.

John Simboli  12:52  
It's not always easy to find one's weakness and then make it a strength. It's tempting to say it's not true.

Nikolaj Sørensen  12:59  
I did a leadership training once with Pfizer which is a little unique but, for us a lot of girls, this is not unique, but for me it was and fortunately for the rest of the participants also, We went out to this farm and we had to guide very, very big horses around. So there was a kind of horse farm with some of the largest horses. And we should get these horses to walk in a different path in specific patterns. And the interesting part was the girls who came out, those were kind of teenage girls and the horses just followed them and then there we came, big males, all of us senior managers at Pfizer in Europe. We couldn't get the horses to move anything. And one of the things that that came through is to get a horse to move, then you need to show that you're the one; this is the way. You have to be confident, this is the way I'm going. 

Nikolaj Sørensen  13:57  
And after two days, half of us, at least, could get the horses, without even holding them, we got the horses to follow around and I think, not that an organization's the same, but if a leader doesn't really genuinely believe in where you're taking the company, that will come through and you won't get the team with you. But if you genuinely believe that what we're doing is the right thing, people will listen and most people will follow you as well. Then, of course with horses, it's more by gestures and then maybe presence but words, with people it's also kind of the way that you present and others. But I think genuinely believing in what you're doing. I think it's incredibly important to become a respected leader.

John Simboli  14:40  
It's a hard thing, isn't it? I know in my life, it's a hard thing to trust that what is genuine to me is valuable in some way, as opposed to following someone else's more obvious lead.

Nikolaj Sørensen  14:55  
But I can say in life, science and biotech, that is much more easy, then in many other places. It's quite easy to say that what we're doing is actually saving people's lives. And I think that working in the C-spaces where you have a unique position, where I have an opportunity to impact patients, is making that storytelling much more easy, then, are you working in something like producing furnitures and others. But I know that the pharmaceuticals from Orexo, if we should pull them from the market today, then thousands of people would suffer tomorrow and that, of course, makes it meaningful for everyone; those who are doing the manufacturing, for those who are developing, those who are ensuring the quality is good enough. We know if the quality of our product is poor, people will die. And I think that is much easier, I think in pharmaceuticals and biotech than in many other industries. 

Nikolaj Sørensen  15:57  
I've been CEO for seven years and I've done hundreds of presentations to investors, and while you think that your P&L is important when you present to investors the storytelling part is even more important. If you start your presentation telling a story about a patient, that makes it much more alive and I actually think that resonates with quite a lot of the people you think who are living with calculators and dollar signs in their eyes, more most of them are quite sensitive to that aspect also.

John Simboli  16:31  
What do you say when people ask who is Orexo?

Nikolaj Sørensen  16:34  
Orexo is a Swedish pharmaceutical who has been dedicated to find and improve treatments for people suffering from addiction. So the company today is very much founded and surrounded around the addiction space and where we we are looking for different options to solve for people who are suffering from opiod addiction. The foundation of the company is from a pharmaceutical development company. We started off as a drug delivery company in Sweden. But for the last six years, we have been more and more centered around addiction treatment. And now we are starting to expand that and looking into adjacent areas, but it's really opioid addiction that has been the center and the core of both research and development and commercialization for the last five to six years.

John Simboli  17:29  
Drug addiction and opioid addiction are obviously, unfortunately, well known problems at this point. But I imagine that it's not always well known that there was a gap that needed to be filled.

Nikolaj Sørensen  17:40  
So when I started at Orexo I knew, of course about opioid addiction but for me, it was something I associated more with addicts standing behind a central station in some shady areas. And I didn't see the issue with pain medication. That's become so evident today. There was even an article about me in a Swedish newspaper where I was interviewed and I said I feel like I'm standing there screaming on a square about, haven't you seen how many people are dying around you? And I've tried to use all kinds of analogues, what would happen if as many dolphins were coming up the coast of Florida? I think the entire world would have gathered to support and to help finding solutions for whatever happened to these dolphins. But now we have young Americans, predominantly, who quite often come with a pretty good background. They are well educated middle income, a lot of them are college kids, get exposed to often, pain medications, either by prescription or by friends, and then suddenly they find themselves addicted and unfortunately, quite a few of them also die. 

Nikolaj Sørensen  18:53  
And I remember a special time I went I was in the U.S., and I just mentioned Orexo is from Sweden, but today the majority of the company is in the U.S. Most of our employees are in the U.S. our products are produced in the U.S.. So apart from the headquarters and some R&D, we are maybe more a U.S. company than Swedish. But I went to the U.S. and I went through, I was redirected with a flight and had to go through Phoenix on the way to San Francisco. And in Phoenix, I had a few hours and I passed this news desk and there was a headline, I think it was in Newsweek, which was on the front line, was a black front page, and this is back in 2017. I think 16 or 17. And the front line says, Why are white Americans dying younger? And without having bought the newspaper, I knew the answer. That's because more and more people are using opioids and are addicted. 

Nikolaj Sørensen  19:51  
And I bought the Newsweek edition that was first number of, must be 2017. And then in the article, it actually showed how the mortality for the first time in modern times, the life expectancies were declining in the U.S. and I knew when I saw that front page, this is the first time it makes it to the front page. The only time I read about it before was when some celebrity overdosed, it went into the celebrity pages and it was a footnote. Now this and this rock star or a pop star has overdosed. But now it made the front page and since then, it has been kind of frontline news in the U.S. This must be in '16 because it was before the election of '16. So it was during '16, in the primaries in New Hampshire, I believe in some research it was the number one topic for voters and it was a hot topic and for a lot of voters in the U.S., it was opioid addiction. And since then, it had the attention that I think it deserves. And there's been quite a lot of work done both by the previous administration but also by the current administration in the U.S. to address it. But it took awhile. But I think that front page in Newsweek, January '16, that was before the election, was really a turning point in this.

John Simboli  21:13  
 And  then how did you take that even clearer understanding that you had about the need, and direct it towards the energies of our Orexo? How's Orexo addressing that problem?

Nikolaj Sørensen  21:24  
I spend a lot of time when I go to the when I go to the U,S. to go out and meet physicians and with the physicians to meet patients. And that comes back to some of the storytelling. When I bring some of those stories back, both in terms of what are some of the issues we see, and as a small company, this is really an advantage to being a small company. We could take some of that feedback and immediately turn it into different solutions for patients. So one of the issues with opioid addiction which you say literally unique compared to many other disease areas. 

Nikolaj Sørensen  22:02  
When you go in and you start your treatment, you are an addict. And if you're on heroin, it takes every four or five hours, you need a new dose of heroin. Every time you take an overdose of heroin, you're basically playing Russian roulette, you're playing with your life, because in that next dose, you can have more fentanyl and others that would kill you. That means that if it takes time, from the time when you meet the doctor to when you can get your medication, for every four or five hours, you have to play with your life with a new injection. And if that's the time when you had convinced yourself, now I'm ready to get treated. You don't want to wait because then you have basically crossed that mental barrier and ready to treat. 

Nikolaj Sørensen  22:42  
I heard that on one of my first trips out from several physicians, say we have a big problem because the the payers in the U.S., insurance companies, it often takes one to two weeks before we can get clearance and for that time, I'm losing a lot of my patients. So we went back and said how can we solve this and then we started a program for patients who couldn't get access for the first two weeks, when they got access to medication for free. And that literally took us I think four or five days from when I went into the field and I came back and said, Okay, this is what I heard, what can we do to solve it? 

Nikolaj Sørensen  23:15  
And I think that is part of the advantage of a small company we can actually react on that. It's so easy to get get emotionally attached because you sit there in the waiting room and I, at least, I have two teenage daughters, I have seen a lot of girls, the age of my daughter's and, Okay, it's a little slip, a physician who is giving them a pain medication. And then we now know about 10 to 15% of the young people actually grow into become addicted. And I think that's making it scary, but also, it's gone beyond a normal job. I think for many people in my company, this has become the purpose of your career is to try to solve this, because we're seeing people that I think all of us can easily relate to; we understand now, I understand, at leaset, this is not something that is for people behind the central station, or at least I start to realize that the people behind Central Station at once were young kids just like my kids. 

John Simboli  24:26  
Can you just give the listeners a overview of how the therapeutics that Orexo is making, how they help to address that problem?

Nikolaj Sørensen  24:33  
 The main product we have is a product called Zubsolv®. Zubsolv® is a so called combination products of two products, buprenorphine  and naloxone. Buprenorphine is the active ingredient which is a partial agonist, which means that, it's also an opioid but what is called a good opioid in the sense that it takes a much, much longer time before . . .  It's half-life is much longer than heroin. I think it's about 36 hours for buprenorphine; heroin is just a few hours. It's very difficult to get an overdose with buprenorphine because it has a ceiling effect. And it's very difficult to get high. If you and I, assuming that you're not taking any pain medications right now, but if you and I should take buprenorphine, right now, we would probably feel some sensation of high and we could potentially overdose. But remember those who go into treatment, they are not opioid naive. They are opioid addicts. And for them to overdose from buprenorphine is very difficult. It's not impossible, but it's very difficult. The only way that you normally could do that is that you crush it and they inject it into the veins so you get straight into your bloodstream. But that's where the naloxone, it's an abuse deterrent. So if you should do that, then naloxone would basically bind to the receptors and lock the active ingredients in buprenorphine. 

Nikolaj Sørensen  25:57  
What we've done is we have developed a product that is more effective. It has a higher bioavailability than some of the other products on the market. It's smaller, patients find it more convenient. And then to respond to some of the market centers that we've done. We have packed it in child safe packaging to the highest grade, so we try to limit the exposure for children. We've done a lot of clinical research to see how we can improve the treatment for patients. And now more recently, we identified, a couple of years back, we identified one of the big issues in the U.S. is, before it was getting access to medication, today, it's actually in combination with a medication, needs psycho-social support. But when we interview the physicians, and this is again, coming back to some of the feedback I received when I met physicians, together with all the people in the team, of course, is we we heard that it's very difficult to find qualified counselors. Zubsolv® is basically a replacement therapy. So people who are addicted to heroin or to other products, if they take Zubsolv®, they will be able to maintain their addiction on a level where they can live a normal life. So this is not making them abstinent, but it's basically replacing a opioid-like heroin. When you get high and you get withdrawal symptoms. And basically in the interim of that in the middle, you feel awful. But with Zubsolv® you can go back and live a normal life and that's what most of the patients will say is we have a product that makes it possible for me to live a normal life. There are other products with similar clinical effect as Zubsolv®, but what our product takes pride in is it's much smaller than the other products that are in the market. We have to safeguard patients and particularly children. We have it in the highest standard of child-safe  packaging. 

Nikolaj Sørensen  28:02  
So that's where we started. One of the latest that we launched is we entered into what's called digital therapeutics. In short, you can say this is like cognitive behavioral therapy, but doing it online, but not with a counselor; you're actually doing with an artificial intelligence robot. So your sessions, the ones that you're interacting with, is an artificial, intelligent robot that will act like a counselor, a psychologist, and it's basically been programmed by psychologists. And all the evidence we have is that it has a really strong effect. The one we launched is called to deprexis®, for depression treatment. We will launch one for alcohol addiction, going down the addiction route, and we'll launch one for opioid addiction. The opiod addiction was actually where we started, but we went down that track. We saw the two other ones which are more advanced from the company, the technology company we partnered with, we took those products also. So now we expanding out for opioid addiction and actually into mental disorder on a broader base. And, for me, mental disorder is, opioid addiction is kind of the same animal and a lot of the symptoms and a lot of the patients are the same. The comorbidity between addiction and depression is is sky high; comorbidities between alcohol and opioid addiction is also very, very high. So we're actually addressing the same patient population but from different angles. But we're also now expanding into depression and into alcohol addiction and misuse. So two new areas for Orexo, from addiction, from where we started. 

John Simboli  29:47  
It's my experience that, frequently, founders and CEOs, when they tell that story, there's always a certain percentage of people who nod and hear it but they're not hearing what you're intending them to hear, for many different reasons, right? So when you make a presentation about Orexo and you finish and someone comes up and says, "Thank you. Now I understand that Orexo  is"— and you realize, No, that's not what I intended. What do people, sometimes investors, whomever, what do people misunderstand and then how do you help them to get onto the track or where you really are?

Nikolaj Sørensen  30:21  
The usual in Sweden, the first question you're asked in pharma and biotech is so how long a time will it take before you have to do a new issue? And we are a profitable company, have been that for a while. I think when it gets to the digital therapies, and that's the new thing for us. The digital therapies, people still don't really understand that you can make money on it. So you have this, yeah, but aren't they just something, a marketing gimmick you give away on top of Zubsolv®? So how much more Zubsolv® are you're going to to sell? While I actually think the opportunities for the digital therapies are bigger. 

Nikolaj Sørensen  31:02  
And if you look at, for example, deprexis®, we have a partnership with a German company. They have more than 2800 patients enrolled in 13 different trials in head to head studies, again, against pharmaceuticals, together with pharmaceuticals, which therapy, adjunctive. therapy, standalone treatment, and consistently, they have shown positive impact and treatment results. That's more research than 95% of the pharmaceuticals that are sold on the market. But still, the perspective is, so how much more Zubsolv® is that going to sell? But that, I think, it's for every entrepreneur coming in with a new business model to a completely new space. It's difficult for people to grasp how is this really going to work? And I think that is today the biggest misunderstanding, that our digital therapists intended to be a standalone business, earning its own money financing its own future, when we've come past the launch phase. And it's not intended to be a combination with pharmaceuticals. But I'm pretty sure in a week or two I will still probably, even from qualified investors, be asked how how long term would your money and the bank account last?

John Simboli  31:10  
In the age of coronavirus, how does the digital therapeutics work that you're doing, how is it affected by what's going on?

Nikolaj Sørensen  32:26  
So this is a very interesting one because if you look at what happened with the coronavirus, the first thing is that in many countries, you're locked down. So you now start to unlock in most countries but you're still in a situation where you have to keep your social distance. I think most most people would be uncomfortable sitting in the waiting room, and particularly if someone coughing next to you and despite having face masks and other safety equipment. So I think we're in in a foreseeable future, we're in a situation where people are not comfortable in the normal way of interacting. And when you come to mental disease, this is a space where you normally sit with your counselor, you want to build a bond. And suddenly, you're not able to do that. If you look at the U.S. reimbursement system, for opioid addicted patients, when we do the calculations, the only way that the the reimbursement you've received from the insurance companies makes sense for a physician is to do group counseling. So you actually have more than one patient in one session. And in that situation, you normally sit around around the table. And now you're in a situation where we shouldn't sit around in the same room. And I think that there is a need for something to replace this interaction that you have.

Nikolaj Sørensen  33:42  
The other aspect, which I think is a little more scary and a little more long term. If you look at how many people are actually suffering from clinical depression, both from the lockdown, both from the uncertainty from the disease and also from potentially losing your job and the risk of economy and your family's future. We've seen numbers in New York area, it's up to 30 to 40% of people who are suffering from clinical depression. We've seen alcohol misuse is increasing in all areas where we have lock downs. Doctors, when they talk to with opioid addicted patients, see a high degree of relapse during this period. We see that patients are overdosing in a higher degree. And all of these areas are areas where we have products and could help the patients who suffer. 

Nikolaj Sørensen  34:31  
So the immediate response to the opioid addiction, to COVID-19, is are there ways to bring these products for what, the potential side effect of a digital therapy is, maybe that you've paid some money or you've spent some time but it's not like pharmaceuticals where you have other biological side effects. So FDA has provided us with a faster access to market and we have responded by moving the of launch some of the products forward several months. Apart from that, I think for Zubsolv® the biggest issue that we, physicians also saying that they have moved to telemedicine. So, today, as an exception to the public health emergency, you can actually prescribe treatment for opioid misuse or dependence using telemedicine. Orexo actually has a lot of treatment alternatives to address some of the aftermath of the COVID-19 in terms of depression, misuse, and so forth.

John Simboli  35:32  
Thanks for speaking with me today, Nikolaj.

Nikolaj Sørensen  35:34  
Thank you for inviting me to your session. It's been a very interesting and, actually, educating dialogue.

John Simboli  35:41  
When we talk about biopharma and big pharma, sometimes it sounds like two unrelated species. One, big, powerful and deliberate; the other small, fragile and entrepreneurial, But it's important to remember, many biopharma founders and CEOs hone their kills within the management ranks of large pharmaceutical companies. For leaders like Nicholai Sørenson, experience at large companies helped prepare them for the challenging and often rewarding role of leading a biopharma company. For Nickolaj and several other BioBoss guests, it's the best of both worlds. 

John Simboli  36:20  
Nicholaj describes his eye-opening moment at Pfizer, when the company's leadership evaluation survey revealed the importance of listening and allowing the teammates he led to help him formulate strategy around his vision. The insight that came from the survey appears to be one Nikolaj's strengths in his role as a biopharma leader. His willingness to listen and build buy-in to his vision for Orexo. Nikolaj went on to say, "If you genuinely believe what you're doing is the right thing, people will listen." He reminds us that work in any profession can benefit society, but, for him, biopharma is an especially clear case since, as he says, "What we're doing is actually saving people's lives."

John Simboli  37:06  
Toward the end of our conversation, Nicholaj shared his thoughts about how the coronavirus is changing the landscape around mental health, depression, substance abuse and addiction. His vision offers hope for how the traditional pharma treatments and digital therapeutics may work together to provide alternatives for patients navigating health issues in the midst of our global pandemic.

John Simboli  37:30  
 I'm John Simboli. You're listening to BioBoss.