People - January 2007

Doc knows success comes in small doses
By Chris Richter

Raleigh-based NeoFax LLC is a product of Tom Young’s frustration. Early in his medical career, he found there were no guides for prescribing medicine to infants.

Drug doses for babies must take into account such factors as age and weight. He had to piece together information from book appendices, journals and other medical publications. “Decimal-point errors become very crucial,” says Young, a neo-natologist at WakeMed in Raleigh and professor of pediatrics at UNC Chapel Hill. “It’s very easy to make a 10-fold dosing error.”

When he came to WakeMed in the mid-1980s, he met Barry Mangum, a pediatrician who is now professor of pharmacology and pediatrics at Duke University Medical Center. They own equal shares of NeoFax. In 1987, they published the first edition of NeoFax: A Manual of Drugs Used in Neonatal Care. It has become the authoritative source. The company, launched in 2001, sells about 30,000 copies of the book a year at $34.95 and produces editions for personal digital assistants. It introduced a Web version, NeoFax WebApp, in 2005.

Young, who is CEO, grew up in Pittsburgh and Cleveland. He studied engineering at the University of Cincinnati but didn’t like it. Interested in medicine, he took time off to work in a hospital. He re-enrolled in college and earned his bachelor’s in mathematics in 1976. He got his medical degree three years later from Medical College of Ohio in Toledo and did his pediatric residency at what is now Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem. As a physician at Medical Center of Delaware in Wilmington, Del., he began developing an informal guide for infant drug doses. He returned to North Carolina in 1986 to join the faculty of UNC Chapel Hill’s medical school and the staff at WakeMed.

The print and PDA versions are updated annually. The Web version is updated two or three times a year. There are editions of NeoFax in Spanish, German, Polish, Russian and Portuguese. Nearly two dozen hospitals, including WakeMed and Alamance Regional Medical Center in Burlington, use the software.

NeoFax has five employees. Young won’t disclose revenue but says the company is in the black. All profits are poured into product development. And the profits likely will keep coming. Drug companies generally don’t like to spend resources on babies. Doing required drug studies, he says, takes more follow-up because infants are still developing. “They shoot for big markets. The neonatal world is a small, niche market.”