Innovator Spotlight on Greg Mayes: Using Personal Experience to Help the Epilepsy Community

Greg Mayes is an Advocate

Epilepsy News From:

Monday, October 28, 2019

Greg Mayes is the president, CEO, and founder of Engage Therapeutics. Engage Therapeutics is an epilepsy company founded in 2017 to clinically develop and progress a product called staccato alprazolam. Staccato alprazolam has the opportunity to become the first FDA-approved inhaler therapy to stop an active seizure. Greg is also personally connected to epilepsy.

We sat down with Greg to learn a little bit more about his connection to epilepsy and what motivates him to do the work that he does.

What is your personal connection to epilepsy?

In the summer of 2014, I was on vacation with my family. We were at the breakfast table when my son dropped his face in the bowl of cereal. At first, I thought he was horse playing, but then I realized he might be choking. It was his first generalized seizure.

Had you ever witnessed a seizure before? 

Looking back, my son had probably had other seizures. We always assumed that seizures were the type shown in the movies, the tonic-clonic motor movements. We hadn’t realized the many different ways that a seizure could manifest. 

How is your son doing now?

2014 was a scary year for us with three big seizure events resulting in emergency situations. His seizures are currently controlled with medications, but we all live in fear of the seizures coming back.

What was one of the hardest aspects of watching your son’s seizures?

The rules of seizure first aid are simple: stay calm, time the seizure, keep him safe, and stay with him until he is alert again. Most seizures end in a few minutes, but those can be the longest few minutes of your life. I knew that if the seizure lasted longer than 5 minutes, I needed to call 911. But other than that, there was nothing I really could do.

When my son went on school trips, I had to check the box that said that there is a medical condition the school field trip organizers needed to know about. I would always get the question about whether I could send some rescue treatment along. But there wasn’t a viable option. We didn’t have an EpiPen® option for epilepsy. That is what excites me about Engage Therapeutics. When I heard about this product (staccato alprazolam), I wanted to help bring it to market. We need more rescue therapy options. 

What experience do you bring to the epilepsy space?

I had been a pharmaceutical executive for over 20 years. My entire career was in the business and legal departments of life science companies. In 2014, I was working in the cancer field. It was extremely rewarding to be in that space. But with my son, watching his seizures, I felt so helpless. I wanted to use my experience and expertise to help the epilepsy community in some way. 

What has been your biggest challenge so far at Engage Therapeutics?

We want sound science to ensure that the product works before it gets to market. For this, we need to complete the clinical trials.

Recruitment can be really tough because we need participants who are known to have weekly seizures that last a few minutes. This is critical, because we want to be positive that our inhaler is working and stopping the seizures.  We want to test this on over 120 individuals to be confident in the product. We are now halfway through recruitment and have 42 sites around the U.S., Caribbean, Australia and Canada. 

Is there anything else that you would like to add? 

I wanted to genuinely thank the Epilepsy Foundation.

It was through the Foundation leadership that I got connected to the resources our family needed. It was also through the Foundation that I was able to learn about potential business investment opportunities and the licensing opportunity with this product. More than half of the Engage team is personally affected by epilepsy and we are in full support of the Foundation’s mission, both nationally and locally

The Engage team is actively participating in many of the Foundation’s Walks to END EPILEPSY®. If you are attending a walk near you, please come by and see us at the Engage booth to learn more about how you can help bring this important product to market.

Authored by: Sonya Dumanis PhD on 10/2019
Reviewed by: Epilepsy Foundation Research on 10/2019
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