Jeff Aronin can pinpoint the moment his personal journey in medicine began.
Jeff, now the Chairman and CEO of Paragon Biosciences, was working for a company that had developed medication for seizure disorders. To learn more about the field, he was spending the day with a physician treating a child who suffered from chronic seizures.
The doctor initially planned to perform an invasive surgery, but he decided to first try a new prescription medication. The new treatment was immediately successful, and the child’s seizures were significantly reduced without the operation. Jeff was hooked.
“That was it for me. I knew what I wanted to do with my life,” Jeff recalls. “When you see firsthand the impact you can make on someone’s life or the life of their child, you realize that everything else is secondary.”
Since this moment, Jeff has strived to merge his work with his passion for bringing innovative therapies to people living with severe conditions.
Jeff’s work and impact on patients has made him a leader in biosciences field. Jeff has his own take on what makes an ideal leader: “Someone who can maintain a long-term vision of the work that needs to be done — especially when you face challenges, which we all do. A leader should be able to remind everyone where the team is headed and why we’re doing what we do. A leader brings out the best in the team and gives them the tools they need to be successful.”
For Jeff, leadership isn’t just about giving orders. It’s about helping his team realize the importance of their work, which is literally saving lives. “From my earliest days, the opportunity to meet with patients, parents and physicians and hear their stories always reminded me that the work we’re doing really makes a difference,” he says.
Filling an urgent need
Today, Jeff’s journey has led him to create an enterprise with far-reaching and meaningful impact: Jeff leads Paragon Biosciences, a pioneer in venture innovation. The company invests in and incubates high-growth biotechnology companies that bring important medicines to patients in need.
Paragon’s track record speaks volumes about the company’s caliber of work, as its leadership has a long and successful history of earning novel drug approvals. Paragon has an overarching vision that has helped it reach the top in the industry.
Prior to founding Paragon, Jeff served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Ovation Pharmaceuticals Inc., a biopharmaceutical company he founded in 2000 that was acquired by Lundbeck, Inc. in 2009. He also served as President of Lundbeck, Inc. during its acquisition and integration of Ovation Pharmaceuticals.
“When I started Ovation, there was a big niche that we were filling: There was a large group of patient populations that no one was focused on,” Jeff says. “Larger pharmaceutical companies were looking for therapies to treat large patient populations. This was the age of the ‘blockbuster’ drug to treat cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure. I realized there was an opportunity to make life better for patients living with rare diseases and their families. So, I made the move and was grateful to have an investor believe in me and our mission. It was a big risk, but we were successful and at the end of the day, patients got the treatments they needed.” “We developed many new medicines and got 4 FDA approvals of new NDAs,” he adds.
When speaking with Insights Success, Jeff also opened up about his views on the need for efficient, patient-focused models when seeking drug approvals. “Bringing a treatment all the way through FDA approval is an arduous process,” he says. “Our approach at Paragon Biosciences works because we have the best development model, which we have validated many times. We use it to give healthcare what it needs today: a focused strategy that puts patients first and addresses true unmet medical needs.”
Today, Jeff’s journey as a venture innovator has helped him and Paragon reach many important milestones. Castle Creek, Harmony Biosciences, Skyline Biosciences, Emalex Biosciences, and Immunogenix are just a few of the companies that Paragon has built. There aren’t many executives who have invested more and received more drugs approved or who have had more success post approval.
Jeff makes the point that a key to his success has been the ability to attract and maintain a team of colleagues who are committed to science. Many members of his team have worked with Jeff, in a range of positions, for over 15 years and have invested in and gotten more drugs approved. Along the way, Jeff still looks ahead to share some thoughts about the field he loves.
“Our scientists are putting in years of dedication into research, and there are many patients who desperately need these medications,” he says. “It is noble work and I am honored to be part of it, and I want people to see the true story behind this important work.”
All of this said, there’s more to Jeff than just his science endeavors, and he makes time to appreciate the important things in his life and career. “When it comes to precious moments, obviously moments with my family rise to the top,” he says. “But professionally speaking, the most rewarding thing is when you hear that a drug you brought to market is improving or saving someone’s life. When a mother tells me that her child is thriving because of the work we’ve done, that makes it all worth it.”