Business Person of the Month

Business Person of the Month August 2018: Seamus Mulligan, co-founder, Chairman and CEO, Adapt Pharma

By Business & Finance
03 September 2018
Pictured: a demo version of the Narcan nasal spray device.

The name Mulligan is synonymous with pharmacies in Waterford city and county, and Seamus Mulligan, one of the family, is fast becoming a name synonymous with pharmaceuticals on a global scale. The serial entrepreneur, most recently co-founder and CEO of Adapt Pharma, has cut a USD$735 million deal to sell the company to US-based Emergent Biosolutions. 

The founding team, including fellow pharma veteran Eunan Maguire, invested €115 million to set up Adapt Pharma just over four years ago, with Seamus reported to have put in about €60 million of his own money. 

Adapt Pharma’s sole focus has been the drug Naloxone, which has been commonly used for many years in hospital anaesthetics. Naloxone blocks the effects of opioids, such as heroin, to revive overdose sufferers. Adapt Pharma developed and marketed a nasal spray version of the drug, called Narcan to be used as an emergency antidote for overdose—previously Naloxone could only be administered with a syringe, which required qualified medical personnel. Narcan hit the headlines this summer when it was used to revive US pop star Demi Lovato when she was found unconscious at her home in Los Angeles in July. 

Speaking on Bloomberg television in 2017, Seamus explained how drug overdoses stop people breathing, and Narcan gets them breathing again: “We are there to provide that patient who has overdosed with a second chance,” he said. “The vast majority of overdoses occur in a home…therefore you need to have the product readily available. It is like a fire extinguisher or a smoke detector. You need to have it there.”

The opioid epidemic

In March of 2018 President Trump hosted an Opioid Summit at the White House to discuss the Administration-wide efforts to combat the current opioid crisis in the USA, after previously announcing in October 2017 that his Administration would declare the opioid crisis a Nationwide Public Health Emergency. The Center for Disease Control’s preliminary data estimated that almost 72,000 died of accidental drug overdose in the USA in 2017, more than a 10 per cent increase on 2016 figures. The vast majority of those deaths involved opioid abuse. 

In this environment, Narcan nasal spray is experiencing steady growth, carving out a sizeable market, reported to be worth over USD$100 million in the USA and Canada. Its approval was fast-tracked by the FDA and it came on the market in the US in early 2016, a timely launch as problems with heroin and fentanyl (a synthetic opioid up to 100 times more potent than heroin) escalated Stateside; the increasing ubiquity of the seriously potent fentanyl being mixed into heroin is wreaking havoc. 

In the interests of public health, Adapt Pharma made the decision to offer Narcan at discounted prices to federal and state agencies. Narcan costs USD$175 for a pack of two single-dose sprays in pharmacies, but is made available to first responders and other public service workers for USD$75. It is commonly used by the police, health workers and even teachers, as well as opioid addicts who are beginning to carry it. 

The Adapt deal 

With the potential to save many more than the tens of thousands of lives it already has, Adapt, with its staff of 50, needed more backing to roll out the product, and went looking for a deal. Emergent, with 1,300 employees and a roster of products including vaccines and treatments for Anthrax, Smallpox, Ebola, influenza and the Zika virus already giving it connections to first responders, showed itself to be the perfect strategic fit. 

The sale is structured with USD$635 million to be paid upfront, with USD$575 million in cash and the rest in shares. Up to a further USD$100 million in cash is payable as future sales targets are reached—bringing the potential consideration to USD$735 million.

According to Companies Registration Office filings dated September 30, 2017, around 75 per cent of Adapt Pharma shares are owned by Nerano Pharma, of which Seamus Mulligan is the sole listed shareholder. If the full terms of the Adapt sale are reached, this puts him in line for a share of the pot worth USD$550. Seamus also holds a relatively small number of Adapt Pharma shares under his own name, along with co-founders Eunan Maguire, chief operating officer;  David Brabazon, chief financial officer; and Fintan Keegan, chief technical officer. 

Adapt Pharma is based in Dublin with US headquarters in Philadelphia. In a statement Seamus assured that all of the company’s employees and facilities would be maintained. He also stated: “I am delighted that this transaction will bring Adapt and Emergent together to focus on critical treatments within the opioid crisis – one of the leading public health issues of our time.

“With a shared mission of protecting lives from public health threats, I am confident that our combined expertise and resources will accelerate access to Narcan nasal spray through investments in public awareness and manufacturing capacity while maintaining a responsible pricing approach.

“It will also allow us to progress Adapt’s R&D pipeline of additional opioid overdose and addiction treatment options.”

Entrepreneurial CV

This is Seamus’ second major pharma deal after selling Azur Pharma, a company he also founded, in an all-share deal that valued Azur at some USD$500 million in 2011, seeing it merge with Jazz Pharmaceuticals in 2012. Cashing in those Jazz shares in 2015 allowed Seamus to fund Adapt Pharma, while he continues to serve on the board of Jazz Pharmaceuticals. 

Prior to that he spent 20 years with Elan Corporation, playing a key role in turning around what was then Ireland’s biggest drug company, as it struggled with too much debt, changing its focus from a drug delivery company to a research-focused organisation. 

He notably purchased former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds’ house on Ailesbury Road in Dublin for €14 million during the boom years, and invested in the Derek Quinlan’s property syndicate which snapped up prestige properties such as the Four Seasons in Prague and others in Mayfair, London. 

He is also reported to have backed a number of early stage companies in the pharma and medical sector, while a family investment firm has backed a whiskey distillery in Waterford that has been established by UK drinks industry investor Mark Reynier, the man behind the renaissance of Islay’s Bruichladdich single malt.

Seamus, one of the sons of the family behind the Mulligans pharmacy franchise, holds a Bachelor of Science in Pharmaceuticals and a Master of Science from Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland.

Business & Finance, Business Person of the Month

Business Person the MonthBusiness & Finance, in association with KPMG, rewards excellence in business through the ‘Business Person of the Month’ award. This award seeks to recognise noteworthy achievements in business leadership, and, particularly, those that make a telling contribution to the wider business community in Ireland.