Business Monday

Spotlight: IM HealthScience develops medical foods

Fred Hassan is founder and chairman of IM HealthScience.
Fred Hassan is founder and chairman of IM HealthScience.

IM HealthScience

Headquarters: Boca Raton

Concept: IM HealthScience is dedicated to developing medical foods for the dietary management of gastrointestinal issues where there is a high unmet need, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), functional dyspepsia, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

Story: The concept of IBgard, the first product from IM HealthScience, is the brainchild of Fred Hassan, the company’s founder and chairman. The former CEO of three large global pharmaceutical companies, including Schering-Plough, Hassan has been associated with many important innovations in biosciences. For many years, he has been aware of the broader use of peppermint oil overseas, and knew it had the potential to help millions of Americans suffering with IBS, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome, a condition that affects 15 to 20 percent of the U.S. population.

This led to the research and development of the company’s patented targeted-delivery technology called Site Specific Targeting, in the form of specially designed triple-coated, sustained-release microspheres. In the case of IBgard, the microspheres deliver Ultramen, an ultra-purified peppermint oil, to the small intestines.

Launched: 2010

Management team: Fred Hassan, founder and chairman; Syed Shah, CEO and chief innovation officer; Dr. Michael Epstein, senior medical advisor; Ellen Geisel, president.

No. of employees: 10


Financing: IM HealthScience is fully funded and not currently seeking investors.

Recent milestones reached: The IM HealthScience advantage comes from developing products based on its Site Specific Targeting technology. The patent was awarded in October 2013. IM HealthScience launched its first product, IBgard, a new medical food for the dietary management of IBS, in January with an exclusive distribution deal with Walgreens stores in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. IBgard has been available on store shelves since March. A double-blind, multicentered, placebo-controlled study with IBgard has been completed, and its findings will be presented at an upcoming medical meeting.

Biggest startup challenge: IBgard is a medical food, so it does not require a prescription, but it should be used under medical supervision. “Our biggest challenge is to educate the medical community, specifically specialists in digestive health, on the more than three decades of scientific research supporting peppermint oil and its active ingredient, L-Menthol, as an effective management tool for IBS, and why IBgard is better at getting the job done,” Hassan said.

Next step: Ramp up production and distribution for a national rollout of IBgard.

Strategy for next step: “Our strategy to achieve nationwide distribution of IBgard is to secure distribution deals with major retail outlets such as Walgreens and CVS. We also plan to educate [gastrointestinal] doctors and IBS patients around the country about the clinical benefits of IBgard in the dietary management of IBS,” Hassan said.

Nancy Dahlberg