546: When Speed to Market Matters Most | Richard Steinhart, CFO, BioXcel Therapeutics

Listen to the Episode Below (00:38:42)

When asked what sets BioXcel Therapeutics apart from other clinical-stage biopharmaceutical companies, CFO Richard Steinhart doesn’t mention a specific drug or therapy. Instead, he describes a system that the company developed to advance the speed with which drugs are commercialized.

According to Steinhart, the biotech company’s system uses artificial intelligence to reveal “hidden connections” that, once exposed, can multiply opportunities for the application of certain drugs.

“Good drug developers can see first connections between drugs and diseases and they are pretty apparent to everyone out there, but second- and third-degree connections are not apparent,” explains Steinhart, who says that such connections have been too time-consuming and expensive to expose in the past. “The last company I was with took 10 years to go from the discovery of a drug to the licensing of the discovery to a phase two trial,” adds Steinhart, who reveals that it was BioXcel’s system for shortening the path to commercialization that first attracted him. –Jack Sweeney

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Guest: Richard Steinhart

Company: BioXcel Therapeutics

Headquarters: New Haven, CT

Contact: www.bioxceltherapeutics.com

CFOTL: Tell us about BioXcel’s offerings and where you are as far as bringing them to market goes …

Steinhart: We’re in a pretty dynamic environment here at BioXcel Therapeutics. We are about to launch into the phase three trial for our lead product, BXL501, which deals with the treatment of acute agitation. Our job here in the finance group and my job is to support the people who are going to be working on this trial. Hopefully, we’ll have a successful trial. We’ll see in a few months. You know, we’re all doing everything we can to make it successful. My job is to support this both from an operational perspective and from a financial perspective. So, this is very exciting for us and really at our forefront right now.

I started doing this job about 15 years ago, and what occurred to me pretty rapidly was that you really have to have great people who work with you. To me that’s really critical. So, when I look to hire people, there are two really critical things that come to my mind. One is that–I’ll just say this, it’s a little funny–I want to be the dumbest one in the room when decisions are made. I really like to hire smart people who can do their job without being micromanaged by me. I don’t want to do that, and I’ve found over the years that people don’t want to be micromanaged. So you find people who are really smart who can do their job. The second really important trait that I look for is people who have some humility around them and who aren’t looking to conquer the world. Obviously, you want people who are confident in their abilities, but you don’t need someone who is a Master or Mistress of the Universe to work for you.

I have found that if you stick to these two important traits when you look to hire people, you’re really in good shape. I’ve tried to do this, and I’ve tried to instill it in the organization here. I think that for the most part we’ve been successful in finding people like this. And this works–this really works because now you have confidence in your folks and you don’t have to dig into all kinds of detail that’s not required. A CFO in a company like ours tends to have his hands in a little bit of everything. You sit in strategic meetings, you sit in clinical meetings, all so that you can understand what’s going on in all parts of the organization. Therefore, you need really strong people in finance, and I think that we’ve been very successful in achieving this. These are two things that I would call real “Eureka!” moments that have occurred for me over several years in hiring a number of people who I think are critical in really any role, but particularly in finance.