Welcome to this week’s installment of In Conversation, a series of conversations in the BioHive with Maryland innovators and game changers. Our guest this week is Rob Crim, CEO of VAYA Pharma, an innovative medical food company focusing on developing products to address lipid imbalances associated with several disorders and health conditions.
Liora Knizhnik: Tell me a little about yourself and your background. How did you get involved with VAYA Pharma?
Rob Crim: I’ve been in the nutrition and medical foods business for a long time—working at Abbott and Danone both in the U.S. and globally before joining VAYA Pharma. I joined VAYA Pharma in 2014 because I was extremely excited about the innovative research behind our products and the new opportunities we are developing. Our products can help people—young and old—effectively manage their conditions in ways that other treatments can’t.
LK: In a few sentences, can you describe the work that VAYA Pharma is doing and why it’s important?
RC: VAYA Pharma is the world-leading producer of lipid-based medical foods. These products help manage lipid deficiencies in the brain that are associated with certain diseases and health conditions. Some of these conditions include attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and early memory impairment. We also have late-stage clinical trials in the field focused on autism, and for patients with ADHD and epilepsy. In addition, we have exploratory studies underway in several other areas.
Our work is important because there are millions of people who are affected by these health conditions. For instance, more than 6.4 million children in the U.S. alone are diagnosed with ADHD. Vayarin, our product for ADHD, can reduce ADHD-associated behaviors, including hyperactivity, restlessness and emotional dysregulation because it effectively delivers lipids to the brain, across the blood brain barrier.
Vayarin is clinically proven to be effective and safe and we often hear from families that it helps their children focus while in school and at home and find calmness in their day.
LK: What drove you to explore lipid technology as a treatment for ADHD and memory impairment?
RC: Sound science is at the core of our business, which helps to set the direction of our product innovations. VAYA Pharma’s parent company – Enzymotec – has been active in lipid nutrition since 1998 and with nearly two decades of research supporting Enzymotec’s lipids for brain health, the company made a strategic decision to move into the medical food space for ADHD and early memory impairment (EMI).
LK: What excites you about having an office in Maryland?
RC: We made a strategic decision to bring VAYA Pharma’s headquarters to Maryland because of the state’s reputation of being a catalyst for biotech and life science innovation, the great transportation access and the highly skilled workforce in the area. I’m excited to have our office located in the University of Maryland BioPark, giving us access to a diverse group of biotech leaders and the opportunity to grow as a new medical food company.
LK: What advice would you offer other international companies who are thinking of setting up shop in Maryland?
Come, explore and meet with others who have successfully transitioned or launched their businesses in Maryland. It is important to tap into the rich knowledge this bio-tech hub has to offer.
Thanks for joining us on the BioHive, Rob! Stay tuned for more In Conversation and be sure to leave any questions or thoughts that you have for Rob in the comments.