PERSON OF MERIT
Harry H. Penner
The Renaissance Man of Science
Harry Penner’s footprints surround ConnecticutÂ’s bioscience industry
ItÂ’s not easy to find a New Haven bioscience company that doesnÂ’t have Harry PennerÂ’s name somehow connected with it. He has helped develop at least a dozen companies and is now focused on growing three more here in New Haven.
Says Penner: Â‘The intellectual stimulation that comes from dealing with all of these things is incredibly gratifying.Â’ PHOTO: Priscilla Searles
He believes he has all bases covered with one prescription drug company, one that specializes in diagnostics and one consumer-supplement business.
Affinimark Technologies is developing a test for the presence of cerebral spinal fluid, called Cerebrostrip, for used in trauma situations and surgery.
Â“ThereÂ’s currently no cheap tramadol available Â— certainly not quickly and inexpensively Â— for this,Â” Penner explains. Â“ItÂ’s a very fun diagnostic opportunity.Â”
Penner and Vincent Pieribone are AffinimarkÂ’s co-founders. The company was launched with funding from Connecticut Innovations Inc. (CII) and Launch Capital. buy ambien online no prescription an Â‘all-ConnecticutÂ’ kind of thing,Â” he says. Â“Having the office on Temple Street very close to Yale helps.Â”
Penner also is developing New Haven Pharmaceuticals, a prescription drug company developed largely on the strength of intellectual property, pending patent applications, and, yes, technology out of Yale.
Â“The proximity to the scientists who are generating technology is not only convenient, but also extremely important to regular updating of that technology and communication with potential investors and partners,Â” Penner says.
New Haven Pharmaceuticals is at the final stage, pre-approval, of its lead product, something Penner calls a high-tech time-release aspirin product licensed from a firm in France.
Â“We very serendipitously found new uses for aspirin were being developed Â— one for liver injury and one for foreign body reaction Â— and what better product to use with that than a 24-hour controlled reach aspirin?Â” he asks rhetorically.
And as so often happens with science, one discovery leads to another. Â“As you know, aspirin can irritate the stomach and the scientists over at Yale learned that zinc, when used in a certain way, can help GI [gastrointestinal] irritation and so that can be combined to create even more products,Â” Penner explains. Â“The zinc product ambien online itself is being developed to treat reflux disease. That has been the most unique and coincidental or serendipitous set of circumstances, all of that coming together to create this very neat suite of programs that are generic valium getting funded.Â”
PennerÂ’s third company, Prevention Pharmaceuticals, focuses on nutritional supplements developed by Yale scientists. Â“Our proximity to Yale is key,Â” he says. Â“ItÂ’s about networks. WhatÂ’s interesting about the supplements, the consumer health products, is there are not only ties to Yale; it [also] involves some of the same people as New Haven Pharmaceutical Â—Â almost like sister companies.Â”
Other companies with which heÂ’s had varying degrees of involvement over time are RxGN, a clinical research organization (CRO) headquartered in Hamden, and Neurogen, where Penner was CEO from 1993 to 2001. He also was co-founder of Rib-X Pharmaceuticals, on whose board of directors he continues to sit, and he serves as an advisor to MAK Scientific, which seeks to commercialize technology from the University of Connecticut. Penner was also involved with Ikonisys and Genaissance for a number of years. He co-founded Marinas and was CEO there until 2008.
Â“ThereÂ’s clearly variety in my day,Â” he acknowledges. Â“Just look at these three companies: You have Affinimark, New Haven Pharma and Prevention. We cover the consumer-health end of the spectrum to prescription drugs to diagnostics. The intellectual stimulation that comes from dealing with all of these things is incredibly gratifying.Â”
Oddly, PennerÂ’s academic training is in the law Â—Â not science.
Â“There wasnÂ’t even a biotechnology industryÂ” when he was in school, Penner jokes. He holds a BA from the University of Virginia, a JD from Fordham and an LLM in international law from New York University.
Â“I did practice law for a few years and I enjoyed it, but I got tired of the Long Island-to-Manhattan commute,Â” says Penner. So in 1978, he and his wife relocated to Connecticut where he took a position with Boehringer Ingelheim.
Â“ThatÂ’s where I cut my teeth in the pharmaceutical industry, largely from the legal side,Â” Penner recounts. In 1981, he went to work for Novo (now Novo Nordisk), where he was offered the opportunity to relocate to Denmark.
Â“As luck would have it, I was chosen to become a member of the top management of the company, becoming executive vice president and general counsel to the parent company in Denmark,Â” he explains. Â“That was quite a trip Â— literally and figuratively.Â”
Three years later he returned to Connecticut and opened a North American headquarters for Novo in New York CityÂ’s Chrysler Building. Three years after that, he saw an opportunity with Neurogen, visit us so began his local pharmaceutical career.
Penner has since served as bioscience advisor to the governor, as co-chair of the bioscience industry group Connecticut United for Research Excellence (CURE) and as chairman of the stateÂ’s Board of Governors for Higher Education. He currently sits on the boards Rib-X, New Haven Pharmaceuticals, Prevention Pharmaceuticals and Affinimark.
Â“By virtue of the rich treasure trove of talented people that have over the course of their careers worked at Bayer, Pfizer and the like, we have a wonderful group of people who are literally right here at our doorstep in New Haven,Â” Penner says. Â“We donÂ’t have to go to another state or run into problems with communication with people who are not close by.Â”
Penner says one of the things thatÂ’s been most rewarding throughout his career is working with highly talented people at his various companies.
Â“Sometimes people worry that New Haven canÂ’t attract the kind of talent that you find in Boston or the [San Francisco] Bay area,Â” Penner says. Â“It is more difficult, but weÂ’ve had wonderful founding people with a breadth of experience.
Â“What IÂ’m most hopeful about is that the state continues down the track that I think itÂ’s on of putting even more money to work at Connecticut Innovations to spark new companies,Â” Penner says. Â“New companies generate new employment opportunities and create a larger tax base and that works out well for everybody.Â”
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