Nexus Pharmaceuticals founder Mariam Darsot believes in altruistic acts like funding a labor and delivery suite in Sierra Leone, the country with the world’s highest maternal death rate. Photograph by Evan Jenkins
Nexus Pharmaceuticals is a 2021 Inc. Best in Business honoree. With the second annual Best in Business awards, Inc. recognizes companies that have had a superlative impact on their industries, their communities, the environment, and society as a whole.
Meet the Illinois-based, family-owned pharmaceutical company that is investing in domestic drug manufacturing as a treatment for the ailing health care industry.
Nexus Pharmaceuticals unveiled a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, in June, doubling down on its mission to make high-quality generic medication more affordable and accessible to patients in the U.S. The company's new three-story plant, a $250 million investment that will eventually employ more than 400, is the first domestic project of its kind in three decades. During that time, the production of U.S. pharmaceuticals largely moved overseas so companies could take advantage of reduced environmental regulations and lower-cost labor. Today, just 28 percent of active pharmaceutical ingredients supplied in the U.S. are produced here.
That overreliance on foreign manufacturers has led to supply-chain snags, quality-related recalls, and reduced export availability. All of which has contributed to pharmaceutical price increases and domestic shortages, according to Nexus CEO and founder Mariam Darsot. And that, she says, prevents people from getting the timely treatment they may require. In the beginning of the pandemic, too, manufacturers in India cut exports of more than 20 critical pharmaceuticals and active ingredients in order to meet the demand of patients in their own country--which only added to the already-heavy burden of the U.S. health care industry, explains Darsot.
"I think it is fair to say that the pharmaceutical industry has done a lot of self-harm to its reputation through allegations of price fixing, products of subpar quality coming from overseas, or the price gouging of critical medications," Darsot says. And she's committed to changing the industry, from the inside out. Since it was founded in 2003, Nexus has prioritized production of historically scarce critical-need injectable drugs. It has long worked with contract manufacturers to produce its FDA-approved generic pharmaceuticals, and now, with its own manufacturing plant, it can increase its output even more to have a serious impact on the United States' overall drug supply. (Especially when you consider the fact that most drug shortages in the country involve generic medications, Nexus's specialty, the promise is clear.)
Over the past year, the company has already boosted the U.S. supply of two scarce, lifesaving pharmaceuticals: a succinylcholine chloride injection, an in-demand drug for treating Covid patients, and a potassium chloride injection, an I.V. solution with historically few manufacturers (including one that was damaged during Hurricane Maria, resulting in an enduring shortage).
Darsot says she's not interested in profit for profit's sake--the company explicitly produces in-need drugs with the intention of reducing consumer health care costs. Nexus eschews private equity so as to not be influenced by shareholders. Its altruism extends beyond its core business, too. In 2020, for example, Nexus funded a labor and delivery unit at the Tanihanun Health Facility in Sierra Leone--the country with the highest maternal death rate in the world. In 2021, the company also donated $176,000 to charitable organizations through employee-matching and community partnerships.
"Being family-owned allows us to give back to a community that has given our company and family so much," Darsot says. "It brings us back to our fundamental mission of helping provide affordable medications to those who need it most."