Originally published in Lloyd Harbor Life, January 2022
By Jean Daniels, Creative Writer
Resident Jackie Iversen, a pioneering pharmacist, and her husband Jim, a veteran business leader in supply chain solutions, are co-founders of Sen-Jam Pharmaceutical. A next-generation biotech company working hard to bring efficacious, low-cost therapeutics to a broader range of patients, especially those in less developed, third-world societies. “I always had this burning desire to develop affordable pharmaceuticals for the masses, rather than dispensing one prescription at a time,” says Jackie. That vision motivated her to formulate a platform of agents targeted at disrupting pain and inflammation—a predominant manifestation of the natural aging process and environmental pathogens.
“We realize that inflammation is the beginning of so many chronic diseases. It begins with the slow build-up from small irritations here and there. If we can nullify that daily, weekly, or once-a-month inflammation, we could make a big move to arm people with an understanding of the underlying process and how to actively fight it,” says Jackie. The Centers for Disease Control estimates 50 million Americans (20%) suffer from chronic pain and an additional 20% from chronic inflammation. More than one million Americans traveled to Mexico annually pre-pandemic to
reduce healthcare and pharmaceutical costs, with an equal accounting going abroad. Shoestring startups like Sen-Jam are carving inroads and opening viable pathways to effective products projected to be manufactured at pennies on the dollar and made accessible worldwide.
“We can produce many more affordable drug remedies to a wider range of patients ignored or unattended to from a therapeutic perspective, globally and in our backyards,” says Jim. “We view ourselves as ‘pharma for the people.’ Solving large unmet needs in creative ways, atypical of Big Pharma.”
To understand the landscape, smaller size pharmaceutical companies bring nimbleness and a focused approach to science uninhibited by the bureaucracy of industry giants. When rumors
of a pandemic began to surface within the medical community worldwide right before the full-blown outbreak, it kick-started long-neglected efforts to develop potent antiviral treatments for
coronaviruses. At the time, the Iversen’s already had an anti-inflammatory product in their cache. “The common denominator behind the platform Jackie developed revolves around targeting inflammation,” says Jim. Jackie theorized that by retooling their existing viral respiratory infection product to hyper-target SARS-CoV-2, it might prove to be a potential game-changer as a preemptive anti-inflammatory and antiviral agent.
“We sent our compounds to a lab in Australia. They tested it against SARS-CoV-2,” Jim says. The results showed a whopping reduction in viral load greater than 90%. “We have the opportunity to decrease that cytokine storm,” Jackie adds. Cytokine release is when an infection triggers your immune system to flood your bloodstream with inflammatory proteins called cytokines. They can kill tissue and damage organs, as seen with COVID-19. Since the Iversens’ retooled compound had novel (new) elements, it allowed Sen-Jam to patent the product. “Repurposing small molecules in existing products opens the door to novel creations and fast-tracks the regulatory process, as a lot of the heavy lifting was done prior.” The company now holds 9 new patents with 17 pending.
Sen-Jam’s findings were published, peer-reviewed, and cited numerous times. It was the validation needed to approach Duke University. The effort resulted in collaboration with Duke’s Singapore satellite school focused on research advancements against infectious diseases and chronic medical conditions. Co-development work led back to Duke in Durham and an invitation to join their COVID task force. Now, after 22 months of R&D, Sen-Jam has entered into Phase II clinical human trials. “We self-funded through 2019 and started raising capital from angel investors in 2020,” says Jim. Drug development is expensive across the board. “Creating strategic partnerships, with like-minded, mission-oriented, stakeholders, allows us to bring our pharmaceutical technology
around the world to end suffering.”
The Iversen’s second lead product under development reduces symptoms manifested from Opioid withdrawal. “The process is harrowing for those who are opioid-dependent. Today’s standard of
care offers very little to reduce the symptoms,” says Jackie. COVID’s viral invasion dominated every facet of life, from the food supply chain to the economy. All the while, in the shadows, people were still suffering from opioid addiction, with overdose deaths exceeding 100,000 in 12 months. “We have been working on a combination product to decrease withdrawal symptoms and cravings and allow detoxification with a reduced shock to the system. The byproduct of which lessens the risk for rebound using.” The Iversen’s are determined to bring hope back to those who’ve lost their way. “These folks have hit rock-bottom. The goal is to restore their dignity. We get fired up to think we can help people conquer their demons, step into their greatness, and become a better representation of themselves,” says Jim. “Until we have a withdrawal therapeutic less expensive and more accessible than the drug of abuse, the crisis will continue,” adds Jackie. “That’s what keeps us motivated.”
Jackie received her pharmacy degree from the University of Buffalo, a Master’s from St. John’s University, and a research fellowship in pain management at Sloan Kettering. “I grew up in Lloyd Harbor for most of my childhood. Ten years ago, and 25 years later for me, we bought a house here. Our children are in college. For a blink-of-the-eye, we were empty nesters, until the pandemic sent everyone back home,” she laughs incredulously. Jackie recalls her childhood fondly. “I was the last of six kids. We outgrew our home in Huntington. My father believed that if we could purchase a piece of land in Lloyds Neck, we could build anything we wanted.” It took her family ten years to build, but they did. “A great accomplishment that never got lost on me. My father taught me through his actions, not just words, that if you set your mind to it, you can achieve any goal in life.”
The Iversen’s are in the home stretch preparing for human trials to commence. “Our business model is to de-risk on the regulatory and clinical side, and then find a commercial partner,” says Jim. “I come at this from a pharmacist’s perspective,” Jackie adds. “All my years in hospitals dispensing medicines, I’ve seen the same scenarios of inflammation, pain, and addiction play out over and over again without a solution on the horizon. It occurred to me. Why not go back to basics? Have the pharmacist create the remedies for what ails the community. It is all about the masses. What they need and can afford. And to that end, we are determined to succeed.”
To find out more about Sen-Jam Pharmaceutical, go to wefunder.com/senjam.