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In the Footsteps of Giants: Alumnus at the Helm of Diabetes Drug Maker
Written by Jenna Pizzi
Published on October 27, 2017
As a student at USciences, Mike Castagna P’00, MBA, PharmD, often found himself thinking of the iconic names in pharmacy whose education was molded at Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and dreaming of making an impact like they did.
“Lilly, McNeil, Wyeth. So many people who would go on to form the important pharmaceutical companies and products of our time came from PCP,” said Dr. Castagna. “It was always a dream of mine to build a company that the school could remember one day.”
Following that legacy, Dr. Castagna set bold goals for himself as a student and in his career. Upon graduation he hoped to lead a pharmaceutical company. Last year, he achieved that goal when he was named CEO of MannKind Corporation.
Dr. Castagna credits the quality instruction at USciences and the practical experience he received at the University with helping to prepare him to reach his career goals and encouraging him to continue to invest in himself through additional education. Dr. Castagna obtained his MBA from University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business in 2003 when he saw his future leaning toward pharmaceutical business. He also received his doctor of pharmacy degree.
“If it were easy, everyone would do it. Hard work pays off,” said Dr. Castagna of the rigorous education he received at the University. “You have to really be focused and not get distracted. If you put in that work, you won’t regret it.”
More than his position in the industry, Dr. Castagna said he is proud to be leading a company that is improving lives. MannKind focuses on the discovery, development and commercialization of products for patients with diabetes, including its first product Afrezza, an inhalable insulin.
“For me it is all about the patients we have helped and all the lives that we have changed with Afrezza,” said Dr. Castagna, whose father and uncle both suffered from diabetes. “It is one of those special medications that have made a huge difference for patients living with this chronic disease.”
Afrezza helps to stabilize blood sugars throughout the day so that individuals with their diabetes don’t have the peaks and valleys they often see when trying to manage their blood sugar with traditional insulin. Dr. Castagna said he hopes that Afrezza will be the change the diabetes industry needs to revolutionize care for the illness.
Upon graduation, Dr. Castagna was able to start a good job. Although it wasn’t the highest paying job, Dr. Castagna, who funded his entire education through student loans and working full time while a full time student, was able to pay off his student loan debt in three years.
Students graduating in today’s marketplace need to be strategic about their career goals and trajectory, Dr. Castagna said.
“I didn’t go after the money when I first graduated, I went where I could have the most career growth, and that was a decision that saved me and set up my career so that I could advance very quickly,” said Dr. Castagna. “Write out a five- and 10-year plan of where you want to be, because you are going to have to make career choices very quickly and it is important to set long-term goals.”
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