Quang Pham is the founder, chairman and CEO of Espero Pharmaceuticals. When outside of the office, this Ponte Vedra Beach resident enjoys spending time with his family and participating in Jacksonville’s many road races.
What’s the story of Espero Pharmaceuticals?
Espero means “hope.” I founded Espero several years ago, and we are an emerging cardiovascular biopharmaceutical company with potential life-savings therapies. We have three FDA-approved prescription drugs to treat angina and reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes or deaths in high-risk patients. The biggest upside in our developmental pipeline is tecarfarin, a safer version of the standard of care blood thinner warfarin and a potential blockbuster. It’s about to enter Phase III, the last clinical trial in humans before the FDA reviews it for approval.
What are your goals for the company moving forward?
Espero was just named one of Jacksonville Business Journal’s fastest growing companies on the First Coast. Most companies at our stage in our industry are publicly traded companies. We are exploring strategic options including going public. We have an office in California where I spent most of my life and where there’s a robust life science industry like the Bay Area, Boston, New Jersey and New York. Several neighboring states and other Florida cities to the south have recruited us to move, but we are staying in Jacksonville…for now.
What’s the biggest challenge today for the pharmaceuticals industry?
The biggest issues that we face are the public perception of high drug pricing and difficult reimbursement barriers by the insurance companies. Government price control has always been lurking. The high cost of drug development, and the money that drug companies pay to the middlemen such as the third party logistic providers, distributors and retail outlets cut our margins significantly. Yet they are largely unknown to the public.
How would you describe the business environment in Northeast Florida?
I think certain industries like golf, tourism, banking support and staffing are booming, and world-class medical providers like the Mayo Clinic are here. Espero is the first and only biopharma with products in this region so there are challenges for us. We operate in a capital-intensive industry that requires venture capital, private equity and highly educated work force. The major biotech and pharmaceutical hubs have investor bases, work force and major research universities that discover molecules that are outlicensed to private companies to develop and commercialize. Every hub has had anchor companies like Genentech in San Francisco and Genzyme in Boston. That’s how regional expertise is built, one company at a time.
What brought you to the First Coast?
My wife is from Jacksonville, and she moved to Southern California for a decade. Nearly all her family lives here. We did a trial move six years ago and decided to stay. I’ve visited the area (and hacked TPC often) since 2000 so it wasn’t a totally strange relocation. Our middle school-aged daughter is close with her grandparents and relatives so we are blessed to be here. I first came to Florida in 1988 after graduating from UCLA. I began my Marine Corps career as a student aviator in training at the Naval Air Station Pensacola, making this my second time living in Florida.
What do you enjoy most about living in Ponte Vedra Beach?
I’ve lived in more diverse communities yet overall have experienced a very warm welcome here. When my friends complain about traffic locally, I just chuckle. We are blessed with the natural beauties of the Intracoastal, the beaches, the golf courses and clean air. Sure, we have to go downtown for concerts and shows but believe me, those are easy drives compared to commuting to downtown Los Angeles for a Lakers game in dead stop six-lane traffic both ways for hours. And there are at least six Vietnamese restaurants within 30 minutes of our home!
I find myself now defending Jacksonville whenever I travel and people I meet would ask, “Jacksonville? Isn’t that like lower Georgia and very southern?” I would reply, “It’s actually a very nice place to live and raise a family. Come see for yourself!”
How do you enjoy spending your free time?
I happen to be a trying golfer, a runner and an occasional fisherman so there’s plenty for me to do locally. Jacksonville is a huge running city, and there are road races every weekend year-round. Our family enjoys being on the ICW and exploring the different regions in the region and the state. Plus, family is close by now and not 2,500 miles away!