Jack Cosentino’s company has developed a test to quantify mental illness. Picture: Hollie Adams

Jack Cosentino’s company has developed a test to quantify mental illness. Picture: Hollie Adams

Jack Cosentino says he is an “impatient CEO” and the hectic pace he has set in his first five months as head of biotech Medibio — overhauling management, refreshing the board and sacking unwanted shareholders — backs that description.

The chief executive of the Australian-listed company says the aggressive pace will continue because he plans to deliver what will be the “largest mental health company on the planet”.

“I’ve done a lot of projects in healthcare but for my board and I this one is very personal — it’s mission driven,” he said.

“I believe patients are dying in huge numbers and it is time for someone to step up to the plate and address it. Our team is extremely aggressive because we can’t take this lightly.”

Medibio, which recently added US swim star Michael Phelps and former US congressman Patrick Kennedy to its board, has developed a test to ­diagnose depression, chronic stress and other mental health ­disorders. The test uses technology based on research conducted over 15 years at the University of Western Australia. It uses panel circadian, sleep and autonomic system ­biomarkers to ­objectively quantify and characterise mental illness.

US-based Mr Cosentino says the statistics are startling. A person commits suicide every 40 seconds due to mental illness. One in four adults will have a mental illness in their life and of 350 million ­patients who present with a mental illness, less than 7 per cent get the care they need.

The spend in Australia to treat depression alone is $12.8 billion and in the US it is about $95.8bn.

“I’m an impatient CEO because we are here to deliver big changes and big solutions,” ­Mr Cosentino says. “This is not a gimmick. This is about the ability to see things that are not being presented today and changing the standard of how it is delivered.

“Relative to Australia, this company will become the ResMed and Cochlear of the mental health sector.”

Mr Cosentino said he grew up in “medical alley” in Minnea­polis, which has one of the largest concentration of medical devices globally, seeding his passion for the sector from a young age. His father was involved in the early years of US medical device giant Medtronic.

“I grew up in a strange childhood in knowing the medical device business quite well.”

Mr Cosentino said the people making the biggest changes in healthcare were clinicians. “If you give clinicians better tools to care for the patient population, then ultimately it will result in successful outcomes,’’ he said.

“We are working hard on building out a robust set of tools, which will give clinicians a brand new peek into how these patients progress.”

When Medibio first approached Mr Cosentino years ago he said he wasn’t interested and told the company it had only a hypothesis.

“They were run by a bunch of folks that were in the mining industry,” he said.

The company persisted, so Mr Cosentino told the Medibio team it had to go to an institution of excellence, and he suggested the Johns Hopkins University, to conduct clinical studies.

“I said ‘at the end of this when the university says you have nothing, you have to get out of business’,” he said.

“They ran 7500 patients through a study over two and a half years and the studies were overwhelming and that was the impetus to me joining the company.”

He said he made a commitment to the board that his entry to the company would bring a management and board overhaul and that aggressive targets would be set to commercialise the product.

“I terminated more than half the company. A lot of companies don’t have the right butts on seats,” Mr Cosentino said.

He then appointed a strong leadership team that included chief financial officer Brian Mower, who was formerly at Johnson & Johnson, and he also appointed two heads from multi-billion dollar digital health company Proteus.

Apart from the appointments of Phelps and Mr Kennedy, the board now also includes Franklyn Prendergast, a 40-year veteran of the Mayo Clinic. Adam Darkin, one of the pioneers of telehealth, has also recently been appointed and will soon take over as chairman.

Medibio’s chief says Phelps is a key opinion leader magnet and Mr Kennedy is a direct link into the White House and US President Donald Trump.

“These appointments are not a marketing exercise. My board members talk to me four times a week. They are engaged,” Mr Cosentino said.

“We pay our board $54,000 a year. They don’t have to do this, but they are investing in the company.”

In what he says is “unorthodox CEO practice”, Mr Cosentino also sacked some shareholders.

“I want people who are really in this for the long haul.”

This piece by Sarah-Jane Tasker was first seen on ‘The Australian’ July 26, 2017.


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