Internist Carving Path as Successful Entrepreneur

To say that Terry Norchi, MD, has had many influences in his career is putting it mildly. From the time he was very young, the physician-entrepreneur has been “luckily influenced†by family and friends who exposed him to macro level questions about the world.

To say that Terry Norchi, MD, has had many influences in his career is putting it mildly. From the time he was very young, through adolescence and beyond higher education, Norchi, the CEO of Arch Therapeutics, has been “luckily influenced” by family and friends who exposed him to macro level questions about the world.

And in those macro level questions, Norchi started to focus in on macro level healthcare questions.

Not a surprise, considering as a child he spent a great deal of time with his father, now a retired anesthesiologist.

“Way back in the days before the concept of HIPAA existed, it was pretty easy to hang out in the hospital and meet people, and get access to different folks doing different interesting things,” Norchi recalls. “And I was always enamored and intrigued of this idea of, not just helping, but helping someone with a very specific problem; and also helping somebody with a specific problem that might actually be a real challenge.”

That inquisitiveness laid the foundation for a successful medical and entrepreneurial career.

One or the Other

As an adolescent, perhaps 14- or 15-years old, Norchi became aware that healthcare challenges were plentiful both in the U.S. and worldwide. Many of the people who were trying to solve these challenges were of one background or another. For example, they might have been a physician but had little knowledge of economics. Or, they might be an account or business professional but knew little about healthcare.

Norchi started asking the question, “Is it possible to become a doctor and something else? And if so, what is that something else?”

After vacillating between obtaining either a law degree or a business degree, he determined that the business side of any venture was critical, and attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to obtain his MBA after completing his medical residency.

With degree in hand, and a desire to do something in healthcare but beyond clinical medicine, Norchi cast a wide net to see what he could learn. What he learned was that he and his colleagues were “relatively insulated” from the real world. And one of the things he caught in his net was the idea of equity research on Wall Street.

“The reason I found that fascinating is, to be a good equity analyst, you need to understand how businesses work, how balance sheets work, how cash flows are managed, and, essentially, how an entity can make money,” Norchi says. “And if you can’t do that, it’s going to be hard to run any entity. And the best way to learn how to do that, I thought, was in the investing paradigm.”

Once he arrived on Wall Street, and during stints with Sanford C. Bernstein, Citigroup Asset Management, and Putnam Investments, Norchi learned that many smaller companies were the innovators, while big corporations were not the point of origin for some of the best innovations.

“They had too many other things to do,” Norchi says. “And when I was observing all of this, that’s when I thought, maybe it’s time to start something.”

Being Innovative

What Norchi started, as co-founder, was Arch Therapeutics, a company in the process of developing a novel approach to stop bleeding surging surgery and trauma care within seconds. In effect, Norchi has taken his passion and successful career in internal medicine beyond direct patient care to address the macro-level question of how to best address and control bleeding.

Arch is currently developing the AC5 Surgical Hemostatic Device. It was scheduled to begin its first human trial, in Europe, during the last quarter of 2015, and if all goes well, to begin to commercialize in Europe this year.

Bringing the device the market is challenging.

“Think about it as engineering,” Norchi suggests. You’re trying to make a razor blade. Before you can sell that razor blade you need to test it. And before you can test it in humans you essentially have to have all the engineering done. And so, it’s really the same with our product. Even though it’s based on chemistry, it’s still being regulated as a device.”

The challenges, of course, abound. Norchi recalls that when work first began on the AC5 he and his colleagues estimated it would take between 8 and 10 years to develop the product for market. And their greatest challenge was launching the company during the most difficult of financial times since the Great Depression. Access to capital was not easy.

But Norchi persevered.

“When you are in a situation where there’s not a lot of capital, you still have to develop the product, because you’ve got obligations to partners and you’ve essentially got obligations to yourself and your company,” Norchi says. “And so if there isn’t a lot of money around to pay to get work done, you have to find out what are the novel and usual ways to get the work done, while being good stewards of the capital that you have available.”

Norchi and his colleagues were able to take advantage of technology and find “the best people in the world” to help get their work done. It might have been in a different corner of the world, but it was cheaper to go to them rather than vice versa, and essentially working an outsourcing model.

Keeping the Batteries Charged

Norchi says that in order to accomplish what he and his colleagues are on the precipice of doing requires a commitment to statements like, “Failure is not an option.” That commitment has led to more than a few all-nighters.

“If I told you the number of all-nighters that I pulled over the first seven years, you’d have a difficult time believing it,” Norchi says. “But you have to do multiple jobs, and all the jobs have to get done.”

Norchi does come up for air—sort of—from time to time. Multi-tasking, such as going through emails while on the treadmill, is not unusual. But he also makes ample time to spend with his family because, “They’re the most important thing in my life besides this company. And if I can do something with my wife and our children that involves exercise, a good meal or travel, that’s how I feel I’m getting my break.”