Dublin entrepreneur targeting treatments for rare diseases
EY Entrepreneur of the Year finalist Dr Joe Wiley of Amryt Pharma
Amryt Pharma founder Dr Joe Wiley: “A good entrepreneur knows how to delegate.”
Amryt is in the process of developing a potential new treatment for epidermolysis bullosa (EB), a rare genetic skin disorder that leads to exceptionally fragile skin. EB is a chronic and debilitating condition for which there is currently no approved treatment.
Additionally, Amryt commercialises a product called Lojuxta, a drug used to treat a rare, life-threatening disease called homozygous familial hypercholesterolaemia. The disease impairs the body’s ability to remove LDL cholesterol, or bad cholesterol, from the blood.
Since its foundation, the company has had a number of highs, including the reverse takeover of Fastnet Equity Plc, two rounds of equity fundraising and a €20 million facility secured from the European Investment Bank.
Wiley has more than 20 years’ experience in the pharmaceutical, medical and venture-capital industries and more recently opened and led the European office of Sofinnova Ventures. Prior to that he was a medical director at Astellas Pharma, having trained in general medicine at Trinity College Dublin.
What is your greatest business achievement to date?
It has to be the quality of the management team we have out together. We have consistently received positive feedback from investors and bankers that we have put together a unique, highly-skilled team with more than 170 years’ experience between them in the healthcare industry.
What was your back-to-the-wall moment and how did you overcome it?
When we initially put the business together we sought to float on the London and Dublin stock exchanges in what was one of the most difficult set of market conditions in a long while, in particular in healthcare. Despite this we successfully floated the company in April 2016, raising £20 million in the process.
To what extent does your business trade internationally and what are your plans?
Amryt is now a commercial pharmaceutical company, generating sales across Europe, the Middle East and other licensed territories. Future sales growth will be driven by existing markets and from new territories. Since November 2017, Amryt has agreed five new distributor relationships, which together cover 17 new countries in Europe and the Middle East.
Where would you like your business to be in three years?
At present there is no treatment for people living with EB, the disease that is often referred to as “the disease you wish you have never heard of”. In three years’ time I would like to see our product on the market making a difference to the lives of people with EB.
How are international political developments such as Donald Trump’s presidency and tax reform, along with Brexit, impacting on your business?
We are in a fortunate position to remain unaffected by US tax reform and Brexit to date as our licensed commercial product does not cover the US market and we do not currently sell any product into the UK market. However, we hope that in a post-Brexit world that we will maintain the ability to source top talent from the UK and also that a regulatory framework can be put in place to harmonise the UK with the rest of the pharma industry in Europe as much as possible.
What is the most common mistake you see entrepreneurs make?
A good entrepreneur knows how to delegate. If you try and do everything yourself you are only setting yourself up to fail. You need to know that it is important to hire a good support team to take care of some of the tasks that you simply cannot handle on your own. In particular, given the percentage of time that is dedicated to fundraising by the chief executive of a start-up company, you need to learn to let other people mind your baby when you’re not around!