Interview With Clene Nanomedicine’s CEO Rob Etherington

This article is the first in a series featuring business executives who choose to live and work in Utah. If you know an executive we should interview, please contact us.

Although Rob Etherington was born in Utah, he has lived in California, New Jersey and England for 40 years before eventually finding his way back to Utah to establish Clene Nanomedicine. Etherington’s professional life has been spent in the pharmaceutical industry. First with Pfizer in New York City, next with Actelion (a start-up which became one of the largest biotechs in Europe), and ultimately with Clene Nanomedicin (Rob moved Clene to Utah one year after its founding in Palo Alto, California).

Clene Nanomedicine invented a new drug, now in clinical trials for Multiple Sclerosis patients. This year, the drug will be tested on patients with Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS) and Parkinson’s disease, all diseases triggered by various aging processes or auto-immune attacks on the central nervous system.

How did you get started in the industry?
Initially, I considered medical school, but choose the pharmaceutical industry because it offers the perfect blend of helping improve global health, innovation, business opportunity and increasing overall quality of life. My focus throughout graduate school was health care marketing and innovation, providing the perfect foundation for a pharmaceutical career.  

What professional accomplishments are you most proud of?
It’s very gratifying to be part of building new drugs to help patients live happier, healthier lives. At Actelion, I helped revolutionize the treatment of pulmonary hypertension, a rare type of high blood pressure in the lung. At Clene, we are working to develop new drugs to help patients with really complicated and devastating diseases.

What drew you to Utah?
Utah’s unique combination of its regulatory environment (less!), economy (strong!), low tax environment (both personal and corporate), educated workforce, quality of life (outdoors!), and its family-friendly culture is unbeatable. That’s why we live here.

What do you like most about living in Utah?
My colleagues and I often remark that Utahns’ are among the “nicest” people anywhere. People who relocate to Utah seem to be “on-balance” and happier with their jobs, their lifestyle, and the economic opportunities in our great state.

What do you like most about doing business in Utah?
The local, city and state government leaders—and the laws they implement—are often our friend, and rarely our foe. Utah “gets business.” In my experience, the state fosters an environment that helps entrepreneurs thrive.

What advice do you have for individuals considering starting a business, or relocating their business to Utah?
Many outsider perceptions of Utah are complete misconceptions. I advise those considering Utah for business to ignore any negative “thoughts” you might have heard about Utah. When you arrive to thrive, the many positive “facts” of Utah will unveil themselves.

How about sharing a fun fact about yourself?
I have seven daughters, and ten grandchildren, with whom I love to hike and ski.

Rob Etherington, CEO of Clene Nanomedicne
Rob Etherington, CEO of Clene Nanomedicine,
is back home in Utah.
To learn more about Rob, check out his LinkedIn profile.