HUBweek Change Maker: Clarence Friedman

Founder & CEO, Antera Therapeutics

During HUBweek 2016, 32 high-impact startups competed for $10k and other in-kind prizes during the Demo Day Impact Leader Competition. Following three rounds of intense head-to-head pitches to industry innovators and thought leaders, Antera Therapeutics walked away with the Impact Leader Grand Prize. This week we had the opportunity to catch up with Antera Therapeutics Founder and CEO, Clarence Friedman, to discuss the impetus behind his early introduction approach to combating food allergies, the value of founding your startup with purpose, and the benefits of constant motion for growing organizations.

What was the breakthrough moment that led to you to found Antera Therapeutics? As a biochemist at Pfizer, many of my projects revolved around immunology pathways. Around this same time, my cousin Max was diagnosed with peanut allergies. I started to think about how we could use existing knowledge to tackle the large and growing food allergy problem. Specifically, I wanted to find a way to train the immune system, from an early age, to properly react to allergens. That’s when the concept of Aralyte was born.

You announced Aralyte, your first commercial product, earlier this year. Tell us a little more about it and how it works. Did you glean any key insights from the experience of bringing a product to market? Absolutely. Aralyte is the doctor-recommended method for early peanut introduction. Our product is based on the groundbreaking findings of the LEAP Study, which showed that consistent early introduction over the first two years of life results in a 98.3% reduction of peanut allergy development. We make giving allergens data-driven, safe, and convenient — even for families with a history of food allergies. One of the biggest things we learned is that parents want to be doing early introduction, but that peanut butter simply doesn’t work for many families. Many parents are looking for measured amounts that they can start at 4–6 months old, when early introduction is most effective. Families with a history of allergies were also looking to start with their physician. So, we created an easy kit of liquid vials, based on data that parents can begin in the doctor’s office.

What makes Aralyte stand out against competitors? Why do you feel this is critical to success? While many other companies focus on the treatment of existing allergies through methods like immunotherapy, we focus on prevention. We think it is more important than ever to take a proactive approach to combating food allergies.

When you envision success for yourself and for Antera Therapeutics one year from now, what does that look like? How might this change in the next five years? We’re currently scaling and growing. Aralyte is now helping families across 33 states. Within the next year, we also look forward to the successful launch of our multi-allergen product, which will help families conveniently and effectively introduce 8 major allergens.

What is the best piece of professional advice you’ve ever received, and how has that impacted your work? “It’s always easier to turn a moving ship.” If you have an idea for a company or product, just get started. Waiting until you have the perfect plan is a recipe for talking yourself out of it. Start now, listen to feedback, and steer as you go.

Within Antera, we still live by that same philosophy. Months before our launch of Aralyte, we showed our work-in-progress to hundreds of physicians and parents. That helped us iterate and ultimately deliver something great.

What resources at the Harvard Innovation Lab did you find most helpful and beneficial to your success? The i-lab gave us the mentors and community we needed to build a solid foundation. It was an incredible experience to be surrounded by peers going through the same issues. We all worked together to navigate the challenges of things like fundraising, negotiating contracts, and securing key hires.

What advice do you have for those who may be considering or are just founding their first startup? Test the need before you build the product. Once you have that, get the ship moving.

During Demo Day at HUBweek, your team won the Impact Leader Grand Prize. Any ideas on what you’ll do with the $10,000 prize? We were thrilled to be recognized as a top innovator, it was a great competition with tons of amazing companies. We plan on using the money to roll out a discount program for Medicare beneficiaries.

Interested in learning more about the strides being taken towards allergy prevention at Antera? Be sure to check out their website and recent press coverage in The Boston Globe, and take advantage of the opportunity to explore other Demo Day success stories here.

The HUBweek Change Maker series showcases the most innovative minds in art, science, and technology making an impact in Boston and around the world.

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