Jeffrey Aronin, the chairman and CEO of Paragon Biosciences, has become one of the most influential leaders in the biosciences sector. By building companies that focus their research on cutting edge therapies for patients who do not yet have adequate treatments, Aronin and his team at Paragon are making a significant difference in the lives of many.

Aronin’s innovative approach to building bioscience companies that create therapies for severe medical conditions has led to nearly a half billion dollars of funding and commitments to Paragon’s portfolio companies in 2018, with another half billion dollars planned for 2019. Each portfolio company specializes in a unique therapeutic area.

Throughout his career, Aronin and his teams have catalyzed the advancement of medicine and helped improve the quality of life for otherwise overlooked patient populations. These patient groups include those living with tonic-clonic seizures, infantile spasms, complex partial seizures, Huntington’s disease, and Porphyria.

Jeff Aronin’s contributions have been recognized by many organizations, including Insights CareMagazine, who recently named him one of the most influential leaders in healthcare for all of his work developing treatments for rare diseases. The Business Intelligence Group also recently awarded Aronin the BIG Innovation award – which is an honor given to executives whose leadership improves quality of life.

Paragon Biosciences’ current portfolio of companies are developing therapies for conditions such as narcolepsy, epidermolysis bullosa simplex, pre-malignant oral lesions and Tourette syndrome.

What Inspired You to Start Paragon Biosciences?

After realizing that there were thousands of diseases without FDA-approved treatments, it became clear that there were gaps in the healthcare industry that needed to be addressed. Many of the people suffering from serious health problems have nowhere to turn, especially those afflicted with rare diseases that many pharmaceutical companies overlook. These are the patient populations that I really want Paragon to help. By creating companies that focus on rare and overlooked diseases, Paragon has been able to advance medicine for patients who desperately need it.

How do You Bring Ideas or Visions to Life?

The first step is finding out which patients we can help the most. This involves evaluating potentially-viable therapies for groups of people who are suffering from a debilitating disease which has no FDA-approved treatment. To advance promising therapies, we create new portfolio companies, or invest in existing portfolio companies, that specialize in research and development for that particular therapeutic area. That allows Paragon’s portfolio companies to get critically-needed medicines to the market as efficiently as possible.

What New Trends Excite You?

I plan to invest in targeted gene therapies because of their potential to lead to cures.  I’m also prioritizing investments in the application of artificial intelligence to healthcare.

I’m also intrigued by innovative approaches to venture philanthropy.  Through the Aronin Family Foundation, we are prioritizing grants for projects that seek transformative impact on quality of life.

What Habits Make You an Effective Entrepreneur?

I’ve built enough businesses over the years to gain a good sense of what will work and what won’t. I’ve learned to focus on the needs of patients first rather than be distracted by high science or new and interesting technologies unless they offer a better solution to a problem. Working closely with a team of experts and focusing primarily on the needs of patients has worked well for me.

What Advice Would You Give a Young Entrepreneur?

For your business plan to be viable, ensure that you are tackling a problem that makes enough of a difference in people’s lives — a problem that people are willing to pay you to solve. Also, grow comfortable making important decisions quickly and without complete information. As an entrepreneur, you must develop the judgement to confidently make your best call.

What Strategy Has Helped Make Paragon So Successful?

Work with people who are mission-oriented and the best at what they do.  For instance, the clinical and regulatory team at Paragon Biosciences has an exceptional track record of earning drug approvals from the FDA, with a near perfect record of first-cycle approvals.

How Have You Overcome Failures as an Entrepreneur?

Mostly through perseverance. Drug development is hard.  Drug development for rare diseases is especially hard. To persevere through challenges, you have to believe that you’re doing something that matters. Also, trust in yourself and your team’s ability to overcome formidable challenges.

What Book Would You Recommend to Our Community?

I recently re-read “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell. It’s a great book with an important message: don’t get hung up overanalyzing things. I think this resonates with many entrepreneurs and as I mentioned earlier, you’re going to have to make big decisions with incomplete information. You should trust your instincts and rely on the experts on your team who focus on the factors which matter.

Do You Have a Favorite Quote?

One of my favorite quotes comes from Henry David Thoreau: “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” Another one is from Winston Churchill: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

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