Alpharetta, GA—When the global management of Novartis decided to shut down its ophthalmic operations in Duluth, GA, in early 2003 and relocate to New Jersey, Dan Myers, then president of Novartis Ophthalmics/North America, thought he would leave the company and have the next 6 months to relax.
He was planning to spend time watching his son play baseball, do some fishing, and play a little golf. While disappointed that Novartis was closing the office and many people were losing their jobs, Myers felt his 12-year run with the pharmaceutical company was a good experience overall. He and the company parted ways on good terms.
"I really had no intention of doing anything, quite frankly," Myers said. "I wasn't even sure I wanted to stay in ophthalmology."
In April 2003, Myers was invited to play golf at the Pebble Beach Resorts in Monterey, CA-just at the time the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS) was holding its annual meeting in San Francisco. Myers decided to accept the golf invitation. He then visited the ASCRS exhibit hall to catch up with industry friends, physicians, and acquaintances.
"I was just going to hang out in San Francisco for a day or so and play golf," Myers said. "One day turned into 5 days. The more I walked the floor and talked to people, I realized that the (Novartis) team had built quite a bit of equity in the ophthalmic market. Perhaps, if some of the other (former Novartis team) didn't want to leave Atlanta, could we pull something together?"
Myers returned to Atlanta and quickly contacted members of his former Novartis Ophthalmics team. David Holland and Mark Testerman quickly jumped onboard. Daniel White, whom Myers knew during his time at CIBA Vision, also decided to bring his business development experience to the mix.
Myers serves as president and chief executive officer of Alimera Sciences; White is chief financial officer and vice president of corporate development; Testerman is vice president of sales; and Holland is vice president of marketing. All are founders of the company.
"It wasn't like I was having some major creation going on here," Myers said of starting a new company. "(The question was) could we go back and do with our own money-or with venture capital money-what we did at Novartis?"