Death of a Dream - My behind the scenes account of what went down
DEATH OF A DREAM
On September 11, 2001, after completing a visit at May Davis, I took the elevator from the 87th floor to the 78th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Just as I reached the elevator on the 78th floor, which would take me to the ground floor, the door slammed in my face. I walked a few steps down the hall and stood at an adjoining hallway. A few seconds later I heard a thunderous sound. I turned to see a wall of flames, smoke and debris hurtling towards me and I heard voices screaming in pain. Death entered my mind. Writing these words today sends a chill down my spine. After walking down more than 78 flights and up a couple, I exited the building. As I walked away, I heard another thunderous sound, turning back toward the sound, I saw the building collapsing. I was transfixed by the sight. Someone ran past me, hit me on the back and yelled run! Minutes later I was lying in the street at the corner of Broadway being covered in dust and debris, a Catholic priest lying next to me put his hand on my shoulder and began praying. I am not sure whether he was praying to be saved or giving us Last Rites. I held my breath afraid of breathing for fear of suffocating or choking from the dust and debris, thinking how ironic it was that G-d had saved me from the building only to have me die here on the street. As crass as this might sound now, I also thought to myself, “Well, at least they will find my body so my wife will know I died and have something to bury.”
I could no longer hold my breath, I gave up to what I was sure was going to be my last breath and gasped for air, only to inhale the dust and debris and what I thought was going to be certain death. In that moment I remembered that as I walked down the stairs a woman on about the 50th floor had offered me a wet paper towel. At first I had said no but then I decided to take it. I wiped some sweat from my face and put the towel in my pocket. Now, lying on the street, I took the towel from my pocket, placed it over my mouth and nose and began breathing through it. I had been saved. I thought, G-D must have a plan for me.
For the next several months I kept looking for signs of what that plan was supposed to be. In early 2002, the answer came. I was contacted by a friend and business associate who knew a person looking for help in introducing a new medical device into the US markets. Because of my background in the pharmaceutical industry and my knowledge of the FDA and my industry connections, my friend thought I would be ideal to help this person. I agreed and he set up a call with Alan Shortall who, with several partners, had established a company named Unitract.
Since Alan was in Australia and I was in New Jersey, we spoke on the phone for over an hour. During that first phone conversation, Alan described a wondrous new medical device designed to help prevent or nearly eliminate needle stick injuries caused by syringes and thereby significantly reduce or eliminate blood borne disease transmission among the injecting public and healthcare workers. The device was the first automatically retractable syringe where the user could control the rate of retraction. The user controlled retraction was a very important product distinction and a market game changer. Alan described in detail how it worked, who developed it and why they developed it. My decision to help him was in good part based on the story of the product’s origination. Commercial success with a humanitarian purpose seemed the answer to my salvation. Alan had described how he had met Craig and Joe, the syringe developers, and how Craig had become obsessed with developing a product that would prevent needle stick injuries. He told me that Craig’s mother had been a theater nurse and during her career had sustained several needle stick injuries, driving Craig to develop a preventive syringe. I was impressed by Alan’s passion and his desire to bring a product to market that had clear humanitarian benefits. I agreed to join the company as an outside advisor. At that time, there were already at least two other retractable syringes on the market but neither had the fully automatic, user controlled feature of the Unitract syringe. I began working with Unitract in March 2002 though I did not become a paid advisor until July 2002. Even then, the Company did not have the funds to pay me as they conserved all of their available cash in order to achieve their goal of doing a public offering on the ASX (Australian Stock Exchange). At the beginning of November 2002, the Company achieved its listing goal and raised approximately AUD 2 million, at which time I received my first payment, including back pay from July 2002. I signed a contract with Unitract that was later revised and renewed and continues in effect to this day. During the first five or six years with Unitract, I made numerous trips to Australia working with Alan and the team to further the Company’s business, raise much needed capital, aid Alan with his presentations, both written and oral, review the progress of the manufacturing facility, meet and advise the Company with regard to the automation equipment being manufactured to assemble the syringe and a variety of other functions. The original syringe was bigger than a turkey baster and had to be brought down to the size of a normal diabetic syringe, a major challenge. My work schedule in Australia generally started early and went very late as we often had dinner meetings with shareholders, brokers and bankers.
As the Company made progress in its syringe development, the share price began to rise significantly. On my first trip to Sydney, I believe in November 2003, the Company suffered its first major betrayal. While I was in Sydney we began to notice a decline in the share price on far higher trading volumes than usual. Those volumes could only have come from an insider. After questioning the insiders and getting responses of them not selling, I went to the annual report and looked at the list of largest shareholders. What I found was that the Company’s CFO at the time had reduced his holdings without filing any forms with the ASX. In addition, when approached with this information and asked if he was continuing to sell large blocks of shares, he denied he was doing so and never returned to work. It didn’t take long for us to discover his deceitful actions.
This is the beginning of a history of disloyalty, corporate intrigue, suspected conspiracies and deceit which have led to the Death of a Dream. What began as a noble endeavor expected to yield a commercial and humanitarian success has devolved into a grab for power and a loss of a sense of decency and purpose.