Rob Crim is the CEO of VAYA Pharma, a division of Enzymotec. VAYA Pharma is dedicated to helping individuals affected by lipid imbalances through the development of proprietary, non-drug dietary approaches. Lipids, a molecular group that encompasses fats and fat-soluble vitamins, play an important role in a number of the body’s natural processes, and lipid imbalance has been associated with disorders such as ADHD and memory impairment. VAYA Pharma seeks to help individuals manage these disorders with three nutrition-based products: Vayarin®, Vayarol®, and Vayacog®. The company recently moved its U.S. offices from Greenville, SC, to Baltimore, where it became a member of the Maryland/Israel Development Center (MIDC), a nonprofit organization promoting trade and investment between Maryland and Israeli businesses and research institutions. VAYA Pharma’s parent company Enzymotec, based in Israel, is one of the world’s leading providers of lipid-based products and solutions. For more information, visit enzymotec.com.
Q. Can you tell us about your background? How did you get your start in the industry?
ROB CRIM: I started as a consumer marketing guy. I started my career in Procter & Gamble. I evolved over time, far more into the health care and medical nutrition space. I went to Johnson & Johnson, then I went to Abbott—where I was responsible for the Ensure business and the Glucerna businesses, which are large, very mainstream businesses for them. After 20 or 25 years of doing that, I decided I wanted to set off for a smaller company. I joined a Dutch nutrition company, who had a small business in North America. I was running that, and ended up moving to Liverpool to run a global, very specialized medical nutrition business, that sold prescription in many countries. It was a tremendous business. While I was in Liverpool, the company got bought by Danone [marketed as Dannon in the United States], the yogurt people, which was a whole cultural revolution, after that. I left there, a couple of years after Danone bought the company. Since then I have been at Enzymotec, in the VAYA Phama division of Enzymotec.
Q. Tell us about the company’s core product offerings.
A. In the VAYA Phama division, we sell medical foods. Medical foods are simply products that are made from the mainstream food source stream. We take those products, develop the science around them, and put them together in combinations that work for specific disease states or conditions. All of our products are regulated as medical foods, which is a regulatory classification—it’s kind of like pharma, but not quite to the level of pharma—but we have to have our science. We can only talk about specific conditions. We sell our products to doctors and patients. Doctors have to write a script to get our product, just like a pharmaceutical product. The big conditions we have products to treat are ADHD—we treat some ancillary neurologic conditions as well—and we have a great product with a great clinical study in mild cognitive impairment, which is a cognitive condition as you get older. And we also have some great science in the pipeline, in other disease states and conditions, including autism and ADHD and epilepsy, and some other disease stages as well.
Q. Can you describe VAYA’s relationship with parent company Enzymotec?
A. VAYA is a division of Enzymotec. Our parent company Enzymotec is publically listed on NASDAQ. It was started in 1998. It had some enzyme technology that they really leveraged to manipulate lipids, which are fats, and developed over time technology behind ingredients that were used in medical foods, infant formulas, and dietary supplements. They developed this technology, and Enzymotec has a nice business selling ingredients to companies like Abbott or Nestle or Danone, or the infant formula companies in the Far East, as well as dietary supplement companies. But then the VAYA Pharma division was an offshoot of that, where we took the same technology in terms of manipulating lipids and took it further, developed our end products—our Vayarin and Vayacog products—developed a science further there to treat specific conditions, and we sell our own end products. VAYA Pharma is really is an evolution of the core technology that’s used at Enzymotec, and there’s a very complimentary relationship between VAYA and Enzymotec.
Q. How do you go about patenting and protecting your intellectual property? Is it similar to pharmaceuticals?
A. Our patent structure as a medical food is we’re not one unique molecule like a pharmaceutical would be. We built a whole IP portfolio in a very comprehensive way, because a combination of nutrients is really what works together. We built a very robust IP portfolio around our technology to do it. It’s different than pharma where it is one single molecule that you patent. Our portfolio is perhaps more challenging in some ways from an IP perspective, but also maybe gives us more protection in some ways at the end, too. We can keep building patents, and unlike pharma we don’t go generic after 17 years. We’ll keep building the science in a robust portfolio over time.
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