Special Feature: Q&A With Menghis Bairu, CEO of Serenus Biotherapeutics

Dr. Menghis Bairu is Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Sereneus Biotherapeutics, a specialty biopharmaceutical bringing innovative therapies to Sub-Saharan African markets. Before founding Serenus, Dr. Bairu concurrently served as EVP, Chief Medical Officer & Head of Global Development at Elan plc and president and CEO of Speranza Therapeutics, Elan’s wholly owned subsidiary formed to develop products into multiple indications. He also served as Elan’s General Manager, was the head of Elan International, and has broad international experience in the United States, Europe, Latin America, South East Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Prior to that, he worked for several leading biopharmaceutical companies including Genentech, Johnson & Johnson, and served on the board of OneWorld Health, a not for profit pharmaceutical company funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Dr. Bairu is also an author and lectures widely on global health and biopharmaceutical issues, particularly in emerging markets.

Q: What is Serenus Biotherapeutics?

Menghis Bairu headshot2A: Serenus is a specialty biopharmaceutical company bridging the divide between the world’s leading pharmaceutical markets and the growing demand for access to innovative therapies in the emerging nations of Sub-Saharan Africa. We specialize in late-stage drug development, in-licensing, registering, and commercializing therapies approved in the United States, Europe, and Japan to address unmet medical needs with high regional prevalence in the Sub-Saharan African market. Serenus represents the efforts of a passionate core group of individuals with global biopharmaceutical experience stepping to the forefront of an African healthcare renaissance.

Q: What makes Sub-Sharan Africa an attractive market?

A: Africa is undergoing a major shift in its healthcare burden as economic growth, a rising middle class, and urbanization are fueling an increase in the incidence of chronic diseases and creating demand for medications. The continent is expected to experience the largest increase in death rates from cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory disease, and diabetes during the next decade. At the same time, pharmaceutical spending is growing at a compounded annual rate of 10.6 percent and is expected to reach $45 billion by 2016, according to the healthcare information market research firm IMS Health. Despite the rapid growth of Sub-Saharan Africa and the demand for innovative therapies, drugmakers have been limited in their efforts to enter these markets because of the complexity of doing business in the region. With our expertise in clinical development, regulation, pricing, reimbursement, distribution, pharmacovigilance, and our deep relationships in Africa, we are positioned to help our partners capitalize on the opportunities in the Sub-Saharan region and bring needed therapies to improve the health of people who live there.

Q: Why would a company seek to partner with Serenus?

A: Though the Sub-Saharan African region represents an area of dynamic economic growth and the availability of innovative drugs lags demand, it’s not easy for drugmakers to simply enter the market. Serenus has assembled an executive management team with extensive biopharmaceutical industry experience in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa that makes it a partner of choice for biopharmaceutical companies interested in expanding access to their novel therapies in Sub-Saharan Africa. We have the expertise and relationships needed to navigate the challenges companies will face from complying with the demands of different regulatory authorities to establishing the necessary distribution networks.

Q: How is the company financed?

A: To date we have been funded by angel investors. Our expectation is that as we sign licensing deals and build out our headcount we will seek to raise venture funding. We expect to do that within a year.

Q: What do you expect to be your first products?

A: We are in the process of concluding several licensing deals that we expect to announce over the next several months. We haven’t indicated what those drugs are, but we will be addressing unmet medical needs.

Q: How will these products be priced?

A: Products will need to be priced with sensitivity to the realities of the various markets we are targeting. Today, these countries rely largely on generic drugs. We see no reason why people in Africa should have to wait for drugs to go off patent and become available in generic formulations before they can get access to them.

For more information on Sereneus Biotherapeutics, go to www.sereneusbiotherapeutics.com.