In this Under the Spotlight interview, Blighty newcomer and legal counsel to Galmed Pharmaceuticals Yael Hollander de Groot shares her thoughts on photography, pills and NASH...
If you could trade places with any person for a week, famous or not, living or dead, real or fiction, who would it be?
Thats a hard one! From the top of my head it'll be really corny... I'd probably want to be Baby from Dirty Dancing. Just to learn how to dance as she does. Yesterday I bought tickets for the musical - it's coming to London for three weeks. I feel like I should have chose a president or a politician... something like that, right?!
Nope, that's perfect; it's a true off-the-cuff answer! What brought you to Cambridge?
My husband! He started studying at the Judge Business School. We moved here 2 months ago, but don't really know how long we'll stay. I really enjoy Cambridge, but my entire family is located in Israel, so I don't think we'll be here for life, but our plans are to stay for several years
What pharmaceutical field do Galmed specialise in?
Galmed focuses on liver disease industry. They have developed a drug to treat NASH (Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis), which is basically caused from accumulation of fat in the liver. It wasn't known as a medical condition until a few years ago. Today there are no approved medical treatments for this condition; it can be reversed through diet and exercise, but it's usually correlated with obesity. People who have the condition often find it difficult to go through these lifestyle changes and it can be easier for them to take an oral pill once a day. There are a few other companies competing to get their product to market.
And how long would that usually take?
Currently we're conducting a Phase IIb clinical trial, with a target to enroll 240 patients globally. We have 82 active sites around the world; in Europe, the Americas, China and Israel. We expect to have the results by the first half of 2018. Galmed won't be able to take it to the next step as we're too small, Phase 3 which is the pivotal study. After Phase 3 is completed we will seek to receive FDA marketing approval. If it all goes well and passes all phases, we expect it will launch to market in 5 years; around 2022.
What was your journey to becoming general counsel for Galmed Pharmaceuticals?
I interviewed! I was a commercial lawyer in a securities department in one of the 10 biggest law firms in Israel for 5 years. For a while, I wasn't satisfied and was thinking about the next stage in my career. I also have a background in economics, and I did my MBa in Israel in finance, so I do have more than just legal skills. I was thinking about making a change, leaving the legal side and going more commercial. I was interviewing for a high-tech company and was accepted, and in the week I had to accept or not, a friend of a friend had just joined Galmed and they were looking for legal counsel, and asked if I wanted to interview. So I sat down with the CEO for an interview, which was quite funny. Being used to big companies, it was strange turning up to see 5 employees and being interviewed by only the CEO. In the middle of the interview he asked "okay, when can you start?!". I remember getting advice from my dad; "shouldn't this be a long interview process?" and he said that this is often how things work in small companies! By that point, Galmed had already gone public, raised funds and were trading on NASDAC. The CEO said he couldn't rely on outside counsel anymore, and needed someone who would also help with investor relations and business development. That really interested me! Being a part of a small corporation that is growing and really being involved and contributing in whatever is needed... not just the legal side! So I said yes, and I'm glad I did because the people I work with are really great and I like what I do!
Tell me something about the Galmed logo?
So, it's actually a liver... the G and P form the shape of the human liver
What do you enjoy most about working at the Eagle Labs?
The alternative was to take an office space and be by myself all day! I really enjoy the people that work in the same space; it's really nice to be in an environment of entrepreneurship. It's exciting to come in to work and see these people with a mission and they're doing it on their own. I just told my CEO that this is very inspiring; being far away from your company can feel isolating sometimes and disconnected. I joined Galmed to be a part of the company's progress, and help move it forward so it's nice to be close to other people achieving their goals and pursuing their dreams... there are very interesting stories here! I really like it... and the team of course! The atmosphere for sure, and the facility is very comfortable and I have whatever I need.
Finally where is the best place to get hummus in Tel Aviv?
Abu Hassan in Jaffa, that’s definitely the best one! You go there every Friday with all your friends and you stand in line just to have hummus!
This interview may include forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements may include, but are not limited to, statements relating to Galmed’s objectives, plans and strategies, as well as statements, other than historical facts, that address activities, events or developments that Galmed intends, expects, projects, believes or anticipates will or may occur in the future. These statements are often characterized by terminology such as “believes,” “hopes,” “may,” “anticipates,” “should,” “intends,” “plans,” “will,” “expects,” “estimates,” “projects,” “positioned,” “strategy” and similar expressions and are based on assumptions and assessments made in light of management's experience and perception of historical trends, current conditions, expected future developments and other factors believed to be appropriate. Forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance and are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied in such statements. Applicable risks and uncertainties include risks and uncertainties identified under the heading “Risk Factors” included in Galmed’s most recent Annual Report on Form 20-F filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, or the SEC, on March 22, 2016, and in other filings that Galmed has made and may make with the SEC in the future. The forward-looking statements contained in this press release are made as of the date of this interview and reflect Galmed’s current views with respect to future events, and Galmed does not undertake and specifically disclaims any obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.