Alfred E. Mann, a biotech entrepreneur, was 90 when he died. His legacy includes the formation of 17 companies, such as MiniMed, and the development of inhaled insulin. Mann was a pioneer in medical research, and a foremost diabetes innovator.
Mann died while boarding a plane to Las Vegas on 25 February. He was due to meet with Matthew Pfeffer, CEO of MannKind Corp., a medical technology firm that Mann helped developed and had been chief executive of for 12 years.
MannKind was one of 17 companies that Mann founded during his career. His companies made developments in fields such as pharmaceutical drugs, medical devices and aerospace technology. The LA Times reports that having sold most of his companies, Mann amassed a personal fortune of over $2 billion by 2007.
Mann is perhaps most well-known for creating MiniMed, a leader in the insulin pump industry. The wearable devices, which Mann developed, allowed people with diabetes to administer insulin throughout the day and more accurately control their blood glucose levels.
In 2001, Mann sold MiniMed to Medtronic in 2001, but remained committed to his pioneering research.
The inhaled insulin Afrezza, developed by MannKind, was among his many achievements. Afrezza, taken at meal times, is an insulin powder that is inhaled using a small inhaler. The insulin is rapid-acting, but not intended to replace long-acting (basal) insulin.
In 2007, Mann told The New York Times: “I believe this (Afrezza) is one of the most valuable products in history in the drug industry, and I’m willing to back it up with my estate.”
Afrezza was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2014, but Sanofi ended its marketing deal with MannKind in January due to disappointing sales figures. Afrezza has not been approved in Europe, but MannKind remains committed to finding a new partner willing to market Afrezza.
Despite his accomplishments, Mann’s origins had very little to do with medical research.
Mann was born on 6 November, 1925, in Portland, Oregon. His mother was a singer and pianist, and his father was a grocer.
He served in World War II before graduating from the University of California with a degree in physics. Mann then went on to improve guidance systems for missiles, and later won a contract to design solar cells for spacecraft.
In 1969, Johns Hopkins University approach Mann to help them create a more durable pacemaker with longer-lasting batteries. Mann founded Pacesetter Systems to develop the pacemaker, a company he then sold for $150 million in 1985.
Mann’s hopes of creating better medical technology for people in need led him to founding Second Sight Medical Products, which makes artificial retinas for blind people to see again.
Mann was oft praised for his wide-ranging contributions: in 1998, he donated $100 million to the University of Southern California, and he intended to leave most of his wealth to charities and institutes that he created at several universities.