Silver lining

Good news is hard to come by these days.

Too often, small success stories are overlooked by the media for salacious, over-the-top items that sell newspapers and attract television viewers. And it’s easy to forget that positive business news doesn’t usually come in large packages, as did the creation of International Steel Group from the ashes of LTV Steel and the thousands of jobs it returned to the area.

So meet Ganeden Biotech Inc., a fledgling biotech firm in Beachwood that’s accomplished quite a bit in a relatively short period of time. Ganeden manufactures pharmaceuticals and launched its first two products, Digestive Advantage and Clearly Confident, in April 2003.

Digestive Advantage is a dietary supplement taken once daily that provides 24-hour relief from lactose intolerance, from which an estimated 30 million to 50 million Americans suffer.

Clearly Confident is an anti-fungal cream for toenails. Both products hit the shelves in June.

Based on a rolling 52-week year, ending Nov. 30, 2003, Digestive Advantage has already become the fourth leading brand in the lactose intolerance category and is sold by 14,000 stores nationwide. More telling is the fact that sales of Lactaid, Digestive Advantage’s primary competing product, were down 13 percent over the same period.

That’s good news for Andy Lefkowitz, company president, who planned to reach profitability by the end of the first quarter this year based on sales of approximately $500,000 per month. But just as Ganeden was set to reach Lefkowitz’s goal, he saw opportunity and funneled the revenue back into the firm to roll out its third product, Digestive Advantage IBS. The product treats irritable bowel syndrome, which affects 25 million and 45 million people nationwide, and is similar in chemistry to the company’s original product.

In December, Digestive Advantage IBS hit 1,000 store shelves to overwhelming demand, so much that Lefkowitz estimates the product should be on between 12,000 and 14,000 store shelves by the end of the first quarter. Accordingly, he’s moved his estimated profitability timeline to June.

Ganeden is just one example of the small successes being accomplished in Northeast Ohio’s nascent biotech community. And, while it’s obviously important to point out the problems the region’s business community faces so they can be addressed, it’s just as imperative to relate that not all the news is bad.