Interview with: Ms. Samira Sakhia, CFO - featuring: their acquisition and commercialization of innovative pharmaceuticals for the Canadian market--products that include Plan B, the only approved emergency contraceptive for sale in Canada and Seasonale, pending regulatory approval in Canada, it stands to be the first extended regimen oral contraceptive.

Paladin Labs Inc. (PLB-TSX)

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Paladin Labs is focused on making a difference in patients’ lives by bringing innovative drugs to their customers in the Canada

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Healthcare
Specialty Pharma
(PLB-TSX)


Paladin Labs Inc.

Suite 102, 6111 Royalmount Avenue
Montreal, QC Canada H4P 2T4

Phone: 514-340-1112

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Ms. Samira Sakhia
Chief Financial Officer

Interview conducted by:
Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor
CEOCFOinterviews.com
Published - January 18, 2007

BIO:
SAMIRA SAKHIA – Chief Financial Officer
 

Ms. Sakhia brings to Paladin extensive experience, including various positions of leadership at Discreet Logic, where she served as Controller of North American Operations, Manager of International Financial Reporting (Montreal, Quebec), and European Financial Manager (London, England). Prior to working at Discreet Logic, Ms. Sakhia worked at Arthur Andersen & Co. in audit.

Ms. Sakhia has received a BComm in Finance and Accounting, and a MBA in Strategy and Marketing, all from McGill University. Ms. Sakhia is also a Chartered Accountant.

Company Profile:

“Paladin was founded in 1996 with virtually no products and no money, but there was a clear vision to establish the Company as Canada’s first specialty pharmaceutical company. Paladin’s strategy is to acquire and commercialize innovative pharmaceuticals for the Canadian market--products that improve the health of Canadians.

At September 30th, 2006, we have over 50 products, $48 million in cash with no liabilities, a rich pipeline of promising new therapeutics, and a business that has grown at a compounded annual growth rate of 18% over the past 5 years. Most importantly, our products are making a difference in the health of Canadians. Case in point, Plan B is the only approved emergency contraceptive for sale in Canada. While every multi-national company with an interest in women’s health turned this product down, Paladin leaped at the opportunity to acquire the license for Plan B.  Canadian women now have more options as a result of our efforts to make Plan B available without a prescription. Seasonale is another product that will improve the health of Canadian women. Seasonale is pending regulatory approval in Canada, and stands to be the first extended regimen oral contraceptive. A woman using Seasonale, as the name implies, would only have 4 menses a year, one per season. Seasonale will be a viable solution for the many women who suffer from painful monthly menstruation.”

CEOCFO
: Ms. Sakhia, what attracted you to the Paladin?
Ms. Sakhia: “I met with Jonathon Ross Goodman our President & CEO and Mark Beaudet, V.P of Sales and Marketing, whom I found extremely impressive, and I admired all that they had accomplished to date. More specifically, they had interesting managerial styles and had a clear vision of where the Company was heading.”

CEOCFO: How long have you been with the Company?
Ms. Sakhia: “I started in July 2001 when Paladin was 35 people and had $12.5 million dollars in revenues. Now, 5 1/2 years later, the Company is nearly 70 people and will generate over $45 million dollars in revenues.”

CEOCFO: What was the vision when you started and where are you today?
Ms. Sakhia: “The vision was to become a leading specialty pharmaceutical company. Put another way, the goal was to build a successful organization in specialized therapeutic areas. We are currently present in the categories of urology, endocrinology, women’s health, allergy and most recently pain.   While we have acquired many new products, the management has been diligent in ensuring that we did not take excessive financial risks. Over the last 10 years, we have deployed our resources very effectively, which is something we continue to do.”

CEOCFO: Paladin focuses on innovative products; how do you define innovative?
Ms. Sakhia: “We define innovative as something that has a unique product offering. Innovative could be something as basic as pricing or a completely new therapy, even if it is for one of our smaller product categories, but brings a lot of difference to the patient’s lives. Take for example Twinject. Consistent with the Company’s strategy, we signed a deal with Verus Pharmaceuticals Inc. of San Diego to launch Twinject. Twinject is indicated for the treatment of severe allergic reactions, known as anaphylaxis and is the first improvement to the Epipen in over 20 years. This innovative product has already captured over 10% of the Canadian market share in only 12 months since the launch. One reason for its astounding success lies in the fact that we have managed to break an existing 20 year old monopoly through innovation. Unlike EpiPen, Twinject has two separate doses of the antidote adrenaline (epinephrine) in a single one injector unit. Studies have shown that about 25% to 30% of the estimated 600,000 Canadians at risk for anaphylactic shock require a second dose of epinephrine. Before Twinject, patients had to carry two Epipen units with them at all times. Today they can carry one Twinject. In addition, Twinject is priced the same as one Epipen, thus patients are receiving the 2nd dose free. We are confident that this innovative packaging will save lives. We launched Twinject into the $25 million epinephrine auto-injector market last year and already have captured double digit market share.”

CEOCFO: As you continue to grow your stable of products does it get easier to get each one introduced, recognized and used?
Ms. Sakhia: “It becomes easier to bring new products on internally. We understand the process of launching and introducing products and we know where resources need to be allocated. However, industry regulations continue to change, requirements continuously change and the environment remains very competitive. We have a great team of marketers and sales people and they continue to excel, but there is no exact formula to ensure that it will work every time. We have to look at each products’ attributes and figure out the best way to market and sell it.”

CEOCFO: You have several ways of acquiring, developing and licensing products; will you tell us the different ways of doing this, and how you decide to take on any of the different formats?
Ms. Sakhia: “We don’t do traditional R&D at Paladin. We leverage the R&D capabilities of our partners to bring innovative products to Canada.  Over the past 10 years, we have become the partner of choice for European and American pharmaceutical companies wanting to enter the Canadian market. Specifically, we have assembled over 25 different partners ranging from some of the largest pharma companies in the world (like Pfizer, with whom we have a successful co-promotion agreement) to the smallest, like Valera from whom we licensed Vantas, their one year LHRH agonist implant, for the treatment of prostate cancer. With our own licensing advisory board, we maintain a leading edge in the scientific and clinical evaluation of new products, which enables us to maintain an enviable product pipeline. In fact, over the last two years, Paladin has successfully licensed-in or acquired over ten new products from seven different technology partners. While multi-nationals in a good year launch one or two products, in 2005 Paladin launched two new products, and has another five in the pipeline waiting to be approved by Health Canada.”

CEOCFO: Do you develop much internally?
Ms. Sakhia: “Paladin’s development strategy is to develop products that are near-term, low expense and low risk. In 2004, we developed a women’s health product that is equivalent to a non-patented women’s health product.  Our product, PAL1, has been submitted to Health Canada and we expect to obtain regulatory approval in 2007.”

CEOCFO: You are one of the leading specialty pharma companies in Canada; will you tell us about the specialty pharma industry in general and what sets you apart from your competitors?
Ms. Sakhia: “We focus on the products as opposed to being focused on a specific therapeutic. If it makes sense to bring a product to Canada, we will look at it and see what we can do. We will invest in a brand if it makes a difference in the lives of patients. This gives us a credibility that maybe other companies do not possess since they may be focused on a therapeutic. We have been successful despite some product failures, but overall we have been very good at acquiring or in licensing products. Over the last 10 years, Paladin has not missed an opportunity to acquire a new product.”

CEOCFO: Are people coming to you at this point?
Ms. Sakhia: “Yes, especially since we have diverse product categories.  Biotech and regional pharmaceutical companies who want to launch their products in Canada will come see us and pitch us their products based on our areas of focus. Essentially they are impressed with our ability to launch new products, our financial strength and our successful history.”

CEOCFO: Will you tell us about the financial picture of the company?
Ms. Sakhia: “We have a great financial picture. I do not know too many companies that have posted record revenues every year of their existence. The Company has a very healthy balance sheet. Even as we acquire more products and invest in the products, the base business is very strong and generates a positive cash flow. In 2005, we invested nearly $10 million in acquisition of products but we generated an equivalent amount of EBITDA.”

CEOCFO: What is ahead for Paladin?
Ms. Sakhia: “We will continue to acquire more products, grow the Company, and become more efficient. We will perfect our strategy. While we continue to grow, we maintain a lean structure. Our size has often been a major advantage.  In fact, our partners appreciate our size, and the fact that senior executives are readily accessible.”

CEOCFO: Are there areas where you would like to gain a concentration in?
Ms. Sakhia: “From the beginning we were concentrated in urology, endocrinology, and women’s, but and at the end of last year, we added an allergy category with Twinject. With the additions of Metadol, Vicoprofen and Pennsaid, a pain and central nervous system category has been created.”

CEOCFO: Do you sell differently in the urban market vs. the rural market?
Ms. Sakhia: “The sales strategy is to focus on physicians who have the most potential. If it is a rural physician and he or she is a high prescriber of a urinary incontinence product like Oxytol, then we will call on him. If he is not a high prescriber of any of the products we promote, then we will reach him indirectly through direct mail, sampling programs and conferences.”

CEOCFO: In closing, why should potential investors be interested and what should they know that might not jump off the page when they first look at the company?
Ms. Sakhia: “Paladin is a great company, a great company to work for, and a great company to invest in because we are rapidly growing and we are very diligent about how we acquire products. We pay a lot of attention to the bottom line. Our future is clear: we will continue to execute our strategy of bringing innovative pharmaceuticals to the Canadian market. Based on Twinject, Plan B, Oxytrol (for overactive bladder), Seasonale, Pennsaid, Metadol (for osteoarthritis of the knee), our business is projected to double over the next 3 years. We have a strong balance sheet and an aggressive business development group whose mandate is to in license additional products to further ad to our growth. In addition to our dedication to patients and our shareholders, Paladin is committed to giving back to community. In fact, the Company has donated millions of dollars of product to Health Partners International, Centraid (United Way) as well as to a host of other charities. This is something I am particularly proud of.”


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“The vision was to become a leading specialty pharmaceutical company. Put another way, the goal was to build a successful organization in specialized therapeutic areas. We are currently present in the categories of urology, endocrinology, women’s health, allergy and most recently pain.  While we have acquired many new products, the management has been diligent in ensuring that we did not take excessive financial risks. Over the last 10 years, we have deployed our resources very effectively, which is something we continue to do.” - Ms. Samira Sakhia

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