Queen's Award is just the right prescription for Elliot's company


HIS hobbies include playing classical guitar, reading several books simultaneously, ballroom dancing and nouveau architecture and antiques.

But for the last 15 years, Dr Elliot Brown has been managing director of his own firm of consultants specialising in pharmacovigilance - a pharmacological science relating to the collection, detection, assessment, monitoring and prevention of adverse effects with pharmaceutical products.

Six years ago he co-founded PrimeVigilance Ltd, a global drug safety and medical information service provider for the pharmaceutical industry.

And last week, he and his team of directors celebrated picking up the prestigious Queen's Award for Enterprise in the international trade category - the highest official award given for outstanding business success in the UK.

In addition to serving pharmaceutical companies in America and UK, the company has entered a number of new markets including Australia, Germany, Spain, Switzerland and Scandinavia.

Which explains why this 64-year-old flying doctor travels significantly nationally and internationally on business.

I caught up with him at his home in Oakwood, Leeds, where the grandfather-of-three lives with wife Lesley.

The couple have been married for almost 43 years and have two sons and a daughter.

Born and raised in Leeds, Elliot attended Leeds Grammar School, moving on to study at the University of Sheffield Medical School.

Elliot's leisure pursuits have always involved collecting, cultivated initially as a youngster with "stamps and coins; the usual boys' things".

As a teenager he played rock guitar and saxophone with a liking for Jimi Hendrix and Django Reinhardt.

In academic terms, Elliot did not benefit from a high achievement level at school, which he feels was down to his lack of confidence.

And although he had parental encouragement - he and his sister Cynthia were given a warm, family, traditional environment - Elliot felt a lack of inspiration at school.

"I took O-levels when I was 14 and A-levels when I was 16, but although I got four passes it didn't give me what I wanted to do, so I took them again when I was 17."

He became a general practitioner by default because his real aim was to be a pathologist.

Apart from the usual 'my-son-the-doctor' yichus it gave parents Cissie and Henry, the one person who inspired him to get into pathology was an American relative, a professor in dental biology.

"After my house jobs, I was offered work as a pathology lecturer in Sheffield, a position really too senior for me, so after a year I felt I couldn't hack it," he said.

The upshot was that he drifted into general practice because he "couldn't think what else to do", working for nine years as a GP in Sheffield and then Manchester, which was "really hard going".

He added: "By then we had young children and I was struggling in a small practice on my own - I really lost motivation."

Elliot was casting around for something else to do when he saw an advert in the British Medical Journal for a medical adviser for a pharmaceutical company with a Manchester office, so he joined Sanofi in 1984, prior to moving to London three years later.

He worked for a number of multi-national pharmaceutical companies in increasingly senior capacities, including five years for the UK government regulatory authority.

During that time he represented the UK government in the EU on drug safety and represented the EU in harmonisation initiatives with Japan and America.

"I set up my consulting company in 1999," he said. "Clients have included government regulatory agencies and pharmaceutical companies both small and large."

As an expert, Elliot also consulted for the World Health Organisation.

He recently participated in a four-year research project with WHO and a consortium of government and health bodies including Morocco, Sweden, Ghana, the Philippines and Kenya called Monitoring Medicines, funded by the European Commission.

In 2008, Elliot teamed up with Dr Miro Reljanovic, a Croatian neurologist with whom he had worked in the past. Miro is in charge of a company specialising in running clinical trials for pharmaceutical companies and with them in co-development of new medicines.

"We decided to set up PrimeVigilance as a specialist drug safety company based in Miro's existing company offices, principally in Guildford and Zagreb," he said.

"We established a board of directors and began with one employee in the UK, then one in Croatia."

The company now has a workforce of 100, comprising 30 in Guildford and 70 in Zagreb and consisting mostly of graduates, principally life scientists, including doctors and pharmacists.

Elliot returned to Leeds in 2009 and now works from home.

Surprisingly, one of the most agreeable aspects of his job is his enjoyment of being involved in running the business side of both companies, having had no business background. Nevertheless, he enjoys interacting with potential clients.

But he also gets a kick from the medical and scientific aspects of the work.

"It is only when medicines are widely used that one starts to understand more about them," he said.

"When a medicine is first researched, approved and marketed there is quite a limited knowledge. Rare side effects, which can often be devastating, come to light much later and investigating that is one area that appeals to me.

"For a patient who tolerates the medicine well and derives a unique benefit from it and can't take anything else, then stopping that medication - because one in a thousand has a major problem which the patient doesn't have -can be catastrophic, consequently benefit and risk is a difficult equation."

The Queen's Award is obviously something of which he is proud.

"Having set up PrimeVigilance from scratch six years ago, we now have a very loyal and highly qualified workforce," he said.

"For me, the fact that we have achieved the award is recognition that we are on the right track.

"Probably the biggest challenge of all is that it is a very heavily regulated industry and there are national and international regulations.

"The governments change regulations not infrequently and that directs the way we work, so keeping on top of the changes is extremely difficult."

As to where Elliot see the company in the next five years, he says the challenges for the future would be to maintain the standard of excellence that has been established.

He said: "On the one hand, it is a scientific enterprise, but it is also a business. We are well on the way to becoming the leading company in our field in Europe, so I see us occupying that position on a worldwide basis."

© 2014 Jewish Telegraph