Driving Disruption: Joel Latham Of Incannex Healthcare On The Innovative Approaches They Are Taking To Disrupt Their Industries

An Interview With Cynthia Corsetti

Drug-Delivery Approach: As a biotechnology company developing new and novel pharmaceutical treatments and therapies, we need to set ourselves apart. One way we differentiate ourselves is by using a targeted, drug-delivery-system approach. We develop novel drug-delivery systems that precisely target specific indications, enhancing the efficacy of therapeutic agents while mitigating any potential side effects, leading to safer, more effective treatments for patients.

In an age where industries evolve at lightning speed, there exists a special breed of C-suite executives who are not just navigating the changes, but driving them. These are the pioneers who think outside the box, championing novel strategies that shatter the status quo and set new industry standards. Their approach fosters innovation, spurs growth, and leads to disruptive change that redefines their sectors. In this interview series, we are talking to disruptive C-suite executives to share their experiences, insights, and the secrets behind the innovative approaches they are taking to disrupt their industries. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Joel Latham, President and CEO of Incannex Healthcare.

As the President and CEO of Incannex Healthcare, a Nasdaq-listed biotech company, Joel Latham brings over two decades of corporate expertise to drive innovation and growth in the healthcare sector. With six years at the at the helm as CEO, Joel Latham has led Incannex Healthcare through dynamic market landscapes, leveraging extensive management and executive background to steer the company towards success. Joel Latham’s tenure spans diverse leadership roles, honing a strategic vision and fostering a culture of excellence. Committed to advancing healthcare solutions, Joel Latham is dedicated to leading Incannex Healthcare towards pioneering breakthroughs that positively impact global health and well-being.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive into our discussion about disruption, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

Since I was young, I have always wanted to work and be successful in business, and I had an excellent role model in my father. He had worked at the same business since he was 16, gradually working his way up to become the CEO of a large company here in Australia. In fact, he’s still with the same business today, more than 45 years later, and he’s been the CEO for about 20 years. My father was then and still is today a unique mentor, able to assist me, particularly in the early stages of my development through my business career.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Incannex stands out because we are clinically developing cannabinoids and psychedelics as active pharmaceutical ingredients in combination drug candidates using globally-recognized good manufacturing practices (GMP) that address significant unmet medical needs.

Our goal is to register our treatments and therapies with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the indications we are targeting. It’s only in recent years that U.S. regulations have somewhat eased to allow for credible, large-scale scientific research. To date, the FDA has not approved any psychedelic therapies and there is only a very small number of cannabinoid therapies approved for use, so we’re just barely scratching the surface regarding the potential of these compounds.

We’re at the forefront of psychedelic and cannabinoid research, with more than two dozen cannabinoid or psychedelic combination drug candidates in development and six in clinical trials. We offer investors a unique opportunity to invest in the cannabinoid and psychedelic sectors as we continue to develop novel products and therapies.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Actually, I will share four traits here. These are all critical points I pride myself on, with the first and most important one being work ethic. It’s extremely important to lead by example and be the hardest worker in the room. I’ve done these two things since I was very young, and my work ethic is what helped me get to the position I’m in now.

The second trait is having visionary leadership. Successful CEOs possess a clear vision for their company’s future direction and inspire others to share that vision and their ambitious goals. They also articulate their vision and goals in a compelling way as they guide the company toward long-term success.

The third trait is adaptability and resilience. You need to be able to navigate through uncertainty and the rapidly changing business environment with resilience and agility. We need to embrace change, pivot when necessary, and not be afraid to take calculated risks in the pursuit of innovation and growth.

The fourth trait is strong communication and emotional intelligence. I think it’s extremely important for leaders to be able to communicate effectively with stakeholders, inspire trust and competence, and foster a culture of open dialogue and collaboration within the organization. I also try to demonstrate empathy, actively listening to diverse perspectives and navigating complex interpersonal dynamics with tact and diplomacy.

Another important note for emotional intelligence is that sometimes you need to remove yourself from a situation. Evaluate the opportunity and remove emotion to ensure that you’re being pragmatic in your decision, constantly pushing forward while also managing staff members with their different personality traits and motivations. By using emotional intelligence, I get the most out of my team by tapping into their strengths and motivations.

Leadership often entails making difficult decisions or hard choices between two apparently good paths. Can you share a story with us about a hard decision or choice you had to make as a leader? I’m curious to understand how these challenges have shaped your leadership.

We recently went through some significant corporate changes here at Incannex Healthcare. We were a duly listed business domiciled on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) with a secondary listing on the NASDAQ. We had 15,000 shareholders on the ASX with limited access to the NASDAQ and the broader U.S. markets, but we ultimately decided to redomicile Incannex from Australia to the U.S.

This move was a significant challenge for me and the company and affected a lot of people, especially many of our loyal Australia-based shareholders. Of course, there was another path we could have taken: staying on the ASX and continuing to trade there, hoping to achieve the growth we needed so that we could deliver on our overarching strategy with our core Australian shareholders. This would’ve been the path of least resistance.

However, I firmly believe that re-domiciling to the U.S. will bring us greater upside potential and the best opportunity in the long run, even though it was the much more difficult path. What I learned was that sometimes you do have to make the most difficult decision to provide the most favorable outcome.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Let’s begin with a basic definition so that all of us are on the same page. In the context of a business, what exactly is “Disruption”?

I see disruption as being the process of fundamentally changing the way things are done within a particular industry, market or system. It involves the introduction of new innovations, technologies, or business models that challenge existing norms, practices and structures, often leading to a significant shift in the competitive landscape and the creation of new opportunities or threats for established businesses.

Within the healthcare sector, Incannex aims to drive and enhance efficiency, reduce costs, and ultimately deliver better, more accessible treatments for patients with unmet medical needs.

How do you perceive the role of ‘disruption’ within your industry, and how have you personally embraced it? Is it a necessity, a strategy, or something else entirely in your view?

We’ve always aimed to disrupt the healthcare sector. In fact, it’s a necessity in our business, although it really comes down to individual strategy. Our aim is to challenge the way things have been done. When we’re presented with a problem, we find a way to overcome it. For example, instead of just developing drugs, we look for efficiencies — ways we can fast-track the development of our treatments. In our case, we are creating and evaluating new, patentable drug candidates by combining cannabinoids or psychedelics with existing and approved-for-use generic drugs with well understood safety and efficacy profiles.

I think disruption is a necessity. We live and breathe disruption every day, providing our team with the tools they need to be able to overcome objections and barriers and challenge common ways of thinking.

What lessons have you learned from challenging conventional wisdom, and how have those lessons shaped your leadership style?

Challenging conventional wisdom is a great way to look at things, but there’s a happy medium here. I like to absorb and take feedback and lessons from everyone, whether it be employees within Incannex or other successful people. In business, it’s important to continue to learn and evolve as an individual, but it’s also important to disrupt. Just because something’s been done a certain way for a long time doesn’t mean it’s the right way to do it. There may be other, more cost-effective, efficient ways to do something, so we need to challenge the status quo when necessary.

Disruptive ideas often meet resistance. Could you describe a time when you faced significant pushback for a disruptive idea? How did you navigate the opposition, and what advice would you give to others in a similar situation?

Going back to the decision to redomicile the company, we have 15,000 stakeholders, including many I’ve worked with every day for many years. Redomiciling was a very significant challenge, especially in dealing with the stakeholders who didn’t understand the rationale behind such a major change, which was met with some resistance.

I did several things to overcome that resistance. First, I clearly communicated the need for the change and its benefits. Second, I led by example, inspiring confidence in that disruption and the path we were preparing to go down. Third, I involved stakeholders and shareholders in the planning and implementation process, ensuring we were accessible to our stakeholders by providing information, shareholder nights, webinars and other informational meetings to relay the rationale of that strategy and gain support from all our stakeholders.

Fourth, I also provided support, resources and training to help facilitate the redomiciling process. Fifth, I addressed the resistance by proactively identifying and mitigating the barriers to success. Finally, I remained flexible, adapting to any disruptions of our strategy as needed.

As we continue to learn and adapt, we look for efficiencies and implement them quickly; it’s important to remain agile throughout a process such as this.

What are your “Five Innovative Approaches We Are Using To Disrupt Our Industry”?

1 . Drug-Delivery Approach: As a biotechnology company developing new and novel pharmaceutical treatments and therapies, we need to set ourselves apart. One way we differentiate ourselves is by using a targeted, drug-delivery-system approach. We develop novel drug-delivery systems that precisely target specific indications, enhancing the efficacy of therapeutic agents while mitigating any potential side effects, leading to safer, more effective treatments for patients.

2 . Expediting Review: The second approach involves expediting regulatory reviews and fast-tracking strategies to commercialization. Companies often follow the normal drug-development route, which takes a significant amount of time, but we try to optimize everything we do internally. By working closely with regulators, we have discovered expedited review processes that are enabling us to push our assets from the development stage to commercialization and then registration in far less time.

3 . Incorporating AI: The third way we look to disrupt our industry is by leveraging artificial intelligence. The biggest barrier within our industry is recruiting enough patients to participate in clinical trials, so in addition to working with contract research organizations (CROs) and external partners, we use AI platforms to identify the best patients for our trials. This strategy enables us to shorten the patient-recruitment timeline thereby completing our clinical trials in a much shorter period of time. Spending less time on our clinical trials also enables us to work with regulators to register our products in a far more efficient manner, resulting in improved outcomes for our shareholders and faster access to treatment options for patients.

4 . Risk Assessment: The fourth approach we implement early on is de-risking our assets before committing to significant expenditures. Part of this approach includes running all of our earliest-stage preclinical and clinical studies in Australia, where we understand the regulatory framework very well and can run our trials quite effectively while reducing costs. Simultaneously, we’re actively communicating with the U.S. FDA about our clinical trial design, results, and timelines to ensure our discoveries carry over to future trials conducted in Australia and the United States, and apply to anticipated and initiated new drug applications.

Notably, we receive a rebate from the Australian government of 43 1/2% on all R&D spent in Australia. Thus, we can de-risk our assets prior to significant expenditure, and we’re able to direct the asset and provide a faster path to market while managing our cash position quite efficiently.

5 . Drug Repositioning: The fifth and final approach that we’ve implemented to disrupt our industry involves innovative drug-repositioning strategies. These strategies allow us to tap into previously gathered data on real-world evidence to identify new therapeutic indications for pre-existing compounds. This approach also enables rapid, cost-effective expansion of our drug pipelines.

Looking back at your career, in what ways has being disruptive defined or redefined your path? What surprises have you encountered along the way?

At Incannex, we’ve avoided the standard drug-development route when developing a new compound. To address unmet treatment needs more quickly, we began to look at combining existing products backed by research that had already generated data for them. Our combination products have enabled us to achieve enhanced research outcomes, also disrupting and changing the biotech industry through expedited review programs.

We’ve also faced challenges in dealing with some of our external partners, who tried to tell us that we needed to follow the same traditional drug-development route, including the extended timeline involved in that longer process. We had to disrupt and change the way our partners were thinking. It took some time, but we were able to overcome those surprises and help our external partners understand our business strategy and the trajectory we’re on. We explained that this is the way they need to think and the model they must adapt to for the long term as they continue to work with us on delivering the results we promised to our shareholders — and the patients suffering from the indications we’re targeting.

Beyond professional accomplishments, how has embracing disruption affected you on a personal level?

Embracing disruption has probably impacted me a little bit too much. I try to disrupt in most areas now, like when my family and I recently moved into a new house and I tried to change the way our builders were constructing our house. I’m always trying to look at different ways of doing things, so disruption has probably consumed me in my personal life as well as professionally. This is something I need to continue learning, including learning how to work with others outside a business environment.

However, embracing disruption has also helped me in my family life, like trying to be the best father and husband that I can possibly be while also being the best business leader in providing and paving the way for a successful career moving forward.

In your role as a C-suite leader, driving innovation and embracing disruption, what thoughts or concerns keep you awake at night? How do these reflections guide your decisions and leadership?

One thing that consumes me is our responsibility to all of our shareholders. There’s nothing I want to do more than to provide a favorable outcome for our shareholders and everyone else who has supported Incannex over the years.

Additionally, I want positive outcomes for the patients suffering from the conditions we’re targeting. There are many indications with limited or no treatment options available, and patients are screaming for effective treatments. Finding solutions for these patients in the long run is definitely another motivating factor that consumes me and keeps me awake at night.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

To be completely honest, I think we’re already doing that. We’re looking to bring a lot of good to a lot of people — and not just our shareholders. Every day, I receive emails from patients suffering from the indications we’re trying to treat or from their partners, and we’re targeting a lot of very debilitating indications, such as obstructive sleep apnea (for which there is no approved medicated treatment), pain associated with autoimmune, inflammatory conditions, generalized anxiety disorder, inflammatory bowel disorder and more.

We know we can bring good to the lives of millions and millions of patients suffering from these indications. That’s something that really drives us because it will be quite fulfilling when we finally achieve the goals we’ve set out to achieve and make a real difference in the lives of millions of people by enabling them to get their lives back from the debilitating conditions they are now dealing with.

I think I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, and I will continue to do all I can to draw influence across this sector and make real, long-lasting changes for millions of patients suffering from these indications globally.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

The best way to view our work online is through our website, Incannex.com. We are also very active on our Incannex Healthcare LinkedIn page and on my LinkedIn page, where I share all of our company updates, so feel free to follow me on all those platforms.

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

About the Interviewer: Cynthia Corsetti is an esteemed executive coach with over two decades in corporate leadership and 11 years in executive coaching. Author of the upcoming book, “Dark Drivers,” she guides high-performing professionals and Fortune 500 firms to recognize and manage underlying influences affecting their leadership. Beyond individual coaching, Cynthia offers a 6-month executive transition program and partners with organizations to nurture the next wave of leadership excellence.