An Interview with Steve Jones, Group CEO of Veriton Pharma

01 March 2018

Tell us about Veriton Pharma

We are a family-owned business, founded by one person twenty years ago. The business is now maturing from humble origins into a pharmaceutical company.

The company started as a developer and distributer of “special” medicinal products. “Specials” is a term which is used to describe unlicensed medicines.

These medicines are prescribed by doctors, dentists and healthcare professionals to meet the unmet clinical needs of patients for whom licensed medicines aren’t suitable, mainly because the patients are either extremely young, they can’t swallow medicines very easily, or both. In the case of rare diseases, there is actually a very limted choice to be had since it normally makes no commercial sense for a big company to try and get a licensed medicine–it costs too much money and takes so long.

Proudest moment for Veriton Pharma

Veriton Pharma have been trying to license a key product for treating epilepsy for many years, but in April 2017, we received our very first marketing authorisation, or a licence. This means that the UK regulatory agency (the MHRA) is satisfied that this medicine meets their very stringent requirements of quality, safety and efficacy. So it was a huge hurdle for a family-owned, single guy start-up company to now have a pharmaceutical product on the books. That potentially makes the product available to a bigger target audience, but more importantly it gives the prescriber and patients a sense of confidence because it’s been shown to be safe and effective.

Future ambitions for Veriton Pharma

To have more licensed pharmaceutical products in more countries. We have ambitions to take our own product, which is licensed in the UK, into Europe. Of course, we would also like to get more licensed products into our portfolio, which we can do two ways. Firstly, we could pick some of our current products and put them through the licensing procedure. Alternatively, we can license products that other people have taken to a stage of development that we are happy with, do the licensing either on behalf of them, or in conjunction with them and again generate a fully licensed product for us to work with.

How might Brexit impact these expansion plans?

It will have an impact for us, there’s no doubt about that. Quite apart from the potential of having to understand any import and export tariffs, there is also the impact of the European Medicines Agency, which is the big agency that governs all 27 states, which is relocating from London to Amsterdam, and the impact that may have on our own, national licensing system.

How do you as a company prepare for wider uncertainty?

Everyone talks about being nimble, being quick, being able to react to situations. We think we can do that incredibly quickly! However, try as we might, our contacts and our ability to stay informed is challenging and continually needs to improve. All we can do is to have the right people in the right place, so that if we have to move quickly we can, and we do.

Worst decision/biggest learning of Veriton Pharma

Paying money for really good advice, right from the start! The history of trying to get a drug product licensed tells us that if you try and minimise the money you are going to have to spend to get good advice, it has a habit of haunting you! So for us, we’ve learnt the lesson. If you want to act professionally, be professional. To be taken seriously, you either pay the money and take really good advice, or you wait until the point you can. What you don’t do is try and cut corners!

What do you look for in your advisers?

We feel very comfortable with advisers when they demonstrate that they have understood our business and the advice they are offering us is what they would do if they were us. These are individuals who cut through the complexity. A lot of the good advice we get is from companies that we have worked with over many years who have demonstrated that we’re both committed to getting a proper relationship established and understanding each other’s business.

What do you look for in your employees?

Of course, people that work hard are professional and honest – as you would expect. We look for a sense of humour and people who are prepared to put the team first; there are a lot of egos out there! We also look for people who don’t take themselves too seriously, but are extremely good at what they do. We’ve been able to ratchet up the skill level and expertise of people here really well.

Personally I’m most proud of being able to attract people to this company who have been in big companies, but are attracted to what we’re trying to do and what we’re trying to achieve. They are the investment for the future and I believe that’s the key to success. If you want to make a difference, you have to join a small company. Each employee has the ability to make a difference here, which can create a massive feel good factor.

What is most important to your organisation - mission, core values or visions?

You have to have a mission and you have to have a vision. You must be clear about what you’re doing,where you’re going and why you’re doing it. But for me, it is the core values: having integrity, respect, accountability and results. being humble, being honest, and being a team player; these are the kinds of things we look for through the interview process and these are the values of the kind of people we want.

What is the future for Veriton Pharma to ensure its continued growth?

It’s all about long-term investments in the pharmaceutical industry. It can be 3-5 years before you see the results of spending a lot of money on a particular project. It can go wrong at any time, so there are big stakes here. In terms of securing the future, it’s balancing the risks. We have some fairly risky stuff and some not so risky stuff. We invest in a portfolio of risk and it’s just making sure we all do the level best that we can.

To enhance our growth prospects, we have had a sales office in Dubai for over 5 years which covers allthe territories in the Middle East, and a relatively new sales office in Melbourne, Australia. Essentially we’re trying to mitigate the risk of the UK after Brexit by doing a balanced portfolio of projects in a balanced portfolio of territories.

What are some of the biggest challenges that are going to face your sector in the coming years?

Apart from Brexit, price challenges. Prices are coming down, and down. Retaining premium products that generate enough income to enable investment in other pharmaceutical products for the future is becoming more and more of a challenge. The challenge is to create enough innovation to truly develop a quality product, charged for at a fair price, that makes a difference to people.

How does the company embrace the entrepreneurial approach of the founder and instil this in the company?

You can’t instil it. You have individuals who are capable of demonstrating it and what you have to do is empower them enough to give them the chance to show it. If there are people around that show an aptitude, they tend to get promoted and then get more jobs and responsibilities! It’s part of the attraction here. We’ve got people who have doubled their salary in 3-4 years because of their attitude. Their appetite for the work is just astounding and we have the ability to push them through.

What inspires you and what is the best advice that has ever been given to you?

You can give your best when your values are totally 100% aligned with the people around you and the company that you’re working for. Be true to yourself, stay humble, don’t take yourself too seriously and be able to have a laugh at yourself.

If you can find yourself in that place, hang on to it.

For further advice on the above topics, please call us on 01483 543210 or alternatively email

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