David Hung knows a thing or two about building companies.
Now the CEO of Axovant, a company that has a shot to launch the first new Alzheimer’s drug in 15 years, Hung had previously founded Medivation, a cancer drugmaker that Pfizer bought for $14 billion in August 2016.
Since Hung joined Axovant in April, the company’s doubled in size from 55 employees to about 105 now.
Hung told Business Insider that it’s key to have the right people in place when building a company, especially one that’s focused on building new drugs.
“The first thing you think about is how you survive,” Hung said. “You can’t really build too much if you die early.” To do that, Hung said he focuses on the business’s concept, makes sure that the company has enough capital, and starts to hire great people.
“Once you become successful and survival is no longer in question, I focus a lot on how I want my company to grow,” he said. “In particular, I focus on not only the objective I want to achieve, but the way in which I want to achieve it.”
For Hung, that means developing new treatments for diseases like cancer or Alzheimer’s that don’t already exist and investing time in having the right employees.
“The reason I named Medivation ‘Medivation,’ is because I didn’t want to make a me-too drug — I wanted to make sure that everything I worked on represented true medical innovation,” Hung said. “So I focused not only on the objectives I want to achieve, but as importantly how I want to achieve them. I spent a lot of my time and effort focusing on the culture of my company, the kind of people I want to work with. It’s really important to me that my employees are treated well. I think that employees are by far the most valuable asset of a company.”
So even if you have a great drug in development from the beginning, if you don’t have the right people working on it, it won’t have a chance at succeeding.
“There are plenty of great assets, but with the wrong team they’ll never come to fruition,” he said.