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Jeff Aronin | Chairman & CEO | Paragon Biosciences

Jeff Aronin: Developing Innovative Life Science Solutions

Life Science is a proving ground where innovation has limitless possibilities. For the forward-looking scientists indeed the future is now. Life Science companies are producing new breakthrough technologies, medicines and treatments. The advent of these new advances will improve life for all humankind. One innovative company is Paragon Biosciences. The experienced team at Paragon goes beyond traditional biotechnology to identify unmet human and societal need across the spectrum of life sciences and match those needs with novel science and accelerate the approval and launch of solutions. Paragon advances life-science breakthroughs by building and supporting visionary companies.
Jeff Aronin, Chairman and CEO of Paragon Biosciences, founded several successful portfolio companies, including: Castle Creek Biosciences, Emalex Biosciences, Evozyne Biosciences, Harmony Biosciences, Qlarity Imaging and Skyline Biosciences. These portfolio companies are developing innovative solutions for both human disease and societal challenges, including environmental, energy, agricultural and industrial. Along with his work at Paragon, Jeff and his wife Lisa provide funding for medical innovation, education innovation, and innovative approaches to neighborhood revitalization and economic growth, through the Aronin Family Foundation.
Jeff’s expertise in novel drug development and venture innovation has made him one of the most impactful and successful leaders in the biosciences sector, by transforming the lives of people treated for complex and severe medical conditions.
A Firm Beginning 
Jeff’s career has been built on bringing motivated teams of scientists and business leaders together to develop important therapies for patients in need and accelerate life-science breakthroughs. This is also the basis of the mission of Paragon Biosciences; to solve complex human and societal challenges by accelerating the development of novel therapies and life science breakthroughs. At Paragon, they originate the idea and create companies by providing long-term capital, deep operational expertise and comprehensive, ongoing support to let their companies focus on execution. Paragon’s six portfolio companies, plus consistent flow of incubating companies in development, are focused on four areas of life science innovation, including artificial intelligence, gene therapy, synthetic biology and biopharmaceuticals.
One of Paragon’s portfolio companies, Evozyne, harnesses artificial intelligence and biology to manufacture new enzymes that have a wide range of applications to solve some of the world’s biggest challenges, such as creating sustainable energy sources, manufacturing products without petroleum, improving agricultural feed production, and designing new approaches to developing medicine. In 2017, Jeff launched Harmony Biosciences with the hope of helping people living with narcolepsy.
In 2019, Harmony introduced the first and only treatment approved for patients with narcolepsy that is not scheduled as a controlled substance by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. This first-in-class treatment with a novel mechanism of action is now being studied in a variety of other orphan/rare neurological conditions. In two years, Harmony has grown from three employees to approximately 150. It was essential to provide excellent leadership and continuously inspire employees as they worked through inevitable challenges to bring this therapy to patients in need. Harmony has since won numerous awards for its commitment and service to those living with narcolepsy. Jeff is proud of his exceptional team at Paragon, with a proven track record of developing new technologies to solve unmet needs, and confident that together they will continue to deliver much-needed advances with broad societal benefits.
Jeff states that Paragon identifies the ideas and scientific innovations with the highest potential to change lives and improve our world. They apply capital, expertise and strong support so these breakthroughs will reach people faster. As a result, not only are Paragon and their portfolio companies a success, but they are making measurable positive contributions to society and the health care systems that we all need and rely on. Prior to Paragon Biosciences, Jeff founded Ovation Pharmaceuticals, where he served as President and CEO from 2000 to 2009, leading an organization that developed medicines which earned four novel drug approvals from the FDA. Later Ovation Pharmaceuticals was acquired by Lundbeck A/S in 2009, Jeff served as CEO of Lundbeck Inc. until 2011.
Providing Unique Solutions 
As Paragon’s vision states; “Our world is better, and people live healthier lives with life science breakthroughs from Paragon portfolio companies.” The Paragon process is to identify the need, isolate the possible solution and then build a company around it. With their proprietary Paragon Innovation Capital™ approach, this means putting in place seasoned, focused leadership and establishing the functional/administrative support services that start-ups often struggle with. Some ongoing support includes financial and expert clinical, regulatory and deal-making advice. By applying Paragon Innovation Capital™ to accelerate the right ideas, they can help more breakthrough innovations reach people faster.
Five-year plan 
Paragon’s vision is to invest in new treatments and technologies that will make measurable positive contributions to society. Since 2017, Paragon and its partners have invested or committed to invest more than $1B in their portfolio companies to achieve their mission of solving human and societal challenges across the world. They plan to invest strategically to address unmet need through life science breakthroughs. Over the next five years, Paragon will likely have several companies go public or be sold but will retain six to 10 portfolio companies at any one time. While these numbers are useful for context, Paragon measures its success by the number of novel therapies created, scientific breakthroughs achieved and people whose lives are improved.
Utilizing the Technology for Betterment 
Jeff believes the use of artificial intelligence has the potential to transform medical diagnosis. One exciting example is Qlarity Imaging, one of Paragon’s portfolio companies, that has used artificial intelligence to develop computer-aided breast cancer diagnosis software for radiology. This company’s first offering was named to Time magazine’s Best Inventions of 2019 list. Jeff believes new technology can provide an impetus for addressing personal and societal challenges. It can help people and society in ways today that were only a dream ten years ago. Paragon has the talented and committed people to execute its vision.
Advising Emerging Leaders 
To the visionaries of tomorrow, Jeff says, “learn all you possibly can in your area of interest, surround yourself with talented people that share the same passion and never give up when faced with what appears to be an insurmountable challenge. Be accountable to your team and help them achieve their personal and professional goals. Keep your team and those whom you wish to serve through your work as your paramount focus.” Moreover, being a believer in education as a change agent, Jeff serves as a mentor to students and young professionals and is also a frequent lecturer at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Business. Through the Aronin Family Foundation, Jeffrey and his wife Lisa provide millions of dollars in funding for medical innovation, education innovation, and innovative approaches to neighborhood revitalization and economic growth.