Komisar takes Protherics global

Wednesday, September 7, 2005 at 12:00am

Protherics' major focus is on critical care and oncology products. What are the company's products?

We are earning revenues from five products: CroFab, a snakebite antidote; DigiFab, which is an antidote for digoxin toxicity; TSE, which supports a test for mad cow disease; ViperaTab, which is an antidote for a poisonous snake in Europe; and Voraxaze, which prevents and treats toxicity from methotrexate, a cancer treatment.

Who benefits from Protherics' products?

Our products are all of high medical value, meaning that they are intended to offer treatment where no current therapy exists, or they offer a substantial improvement over existing therapy. Voraxaze, for example, is intended to help people survive a specific type of cancer treatment. It has received Orphan Drug designation both here and in Europe, and we hope to launch this product with our own internal sales force. This will be a major milestone for Protherics and complete our vertical integration process. This sales force will be managed out of our Brentwood office.

What are the advantages to having Protherics' U.S. headquarters in Brentwood?

The energy and excitement in Nashville's health care industry are amazing. The city has name recognition around the world thanks to the respected companies that are headquartered here. Life sciences is a nascent sector in Tennessee, and I think the only way that will change is if someone here hits pay dirt like HCA did many years ago. Having said that, there are a few really good, young companies here that I think have a chance to do very well.

Saul Komisar, president, Protherics
Hometown: Nashville
Education: Birmingham Southern College, Vanderbilt University Owen Graduate School of Management
Age: 36
First conventional job: Banker, Healthcare Finance Group, SunTrust Bank
Hypothetical dream job: Curator of the d'Orsay Museum

Protherics is a Brentwood-based vertically integrated biotechnology company focused on developing and marketing oncology and critical care products.

What is your leadership philosophy?

To be versatile and inconsistent. It has taken me a while, but I have come to understand that you don't motivate an eight-month pregnant woman the same way you do a 25-year-old Owen graduate who can't understand why she is not running the company yet. Moreover, the range of operating problems is so great that one habitual set of responses is completely inadequate. In order to get things done, you have to have the discipline to change your methods of motivation to fit the circumstance. It's far easier to just pick one leadership style and run with it, but over the long haul you will become a caricature to the people you work with and less will get accomplished.

What are your weaknesses as a leader?

Allowing my ego to run wild. When I was still in my early 20s and had just started my first business, I attended a health care conference in New York. One night I saw a well-known Nashville health care leader at the bar. It was someone I had always wanted to meet, so I walked over to introduce myself and without taking a breath launched into some commentary about the current state of health care, probably plagiarizing what I heard someone else say earlier that day. At the end of which, he looked over at me with a blank expression and said, "You don't know ****." Then he looked away and took another pull on his scotch and soda. It was an embarrassing moment but a liberating one as well and an epiphany of sorts. He was right and still is, and every time my ego starts getting the best of me, I remind myself that I really "don't know" and it helps free me to open up to fresh and healthier ideas.

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