Edwin A. Cohen, a 1955 graduate of Fordham University’s College of Pharmacy who became a trailblazer in the pharmaceutical industry and was a key player in expanding the availability of generic pharmaceuticals in the U.S. and around the globe, died “peacefully and painlessly” in his New York City home on Jan. 4, according to his family. He was 89 years old.
Cohen’s legacy includes launching and leading four pharmaceutical companies and testifying before Congress to expose corruption in the Food and Drug Administration. Most recently, he served as the founding CEO and chairman of Summit BioSciences Inc., a Lexington, Kentucky-based pharmaceutical company that develops and manufactures nasal spray medicines.
“[He] was an advocate for Fordham University since graduating from the College of Pharmacy, and always credited the experience and education he received at Fordham as the building block for his future business endeavors,” Cohen’s son Richard wrote in an email.
Although Fordham’s College of Pharmacy closed in 1972, Cohen remained close to his alma mater, particularly the Gabelli School of Business. After serving on the University’s Board of Trustees from 2000 to 2004, he became a trustee fellow. He and his wife, Nadia, have also been generous benefactors of Fordham, supporting scholarship funds for students and research at the Graduate School of Social Service’s Ravazzin Center on Aging and Intergenerational Studies, among other initiatives.
In 1997, Fordham awarded Cohen an honorary Doctor of Science degree during the University’s annual commencement ceremony. Sharon Smith, Ph.D., then dean of the University’s undergraduate business school, read the citation.
“One of the enduring challenges facing American society is the development of a system of health care that is both medically and economically sound and responds to the needs of all of our citizens,” Smith said. “Mr. Cohen’s success in providing generic drugs to the public has set a standard for other business leaders to emulate.”
To that end, Cohen made a significant impact on the global pharmaceutical industry. He worked with the U.S. Agency for International Development and Egypt’s Ministry of Health to expand the use and availability of generic drugs, and was invited to Turkey and Mexico to work with industry leaders on maximizing pharmaceutical exports to reach new territories.
Under his leadership, Summit BioSciences achieved annual sales between $1 million and $5 million and expanded its facilities and staff by nearly triple since he founded the company in 2008. In the late 1990s, Cohen founded Intranasal Therapeutics, now known as Ikano Therapeutics, and served as the company’s CEO and chairman. He made his first foray in the industry in 1959, when he co-founded Davis-Edwards Pharmacal Corporation, which became one of the first companies to manufacture and promote multisource drugs.
Another milestone in Cohen’s career was his leadership of Barr Laboratories Inc., a pharmaceutical company he launched in 1970 that traded on the New York Stock Exchange and grew to more than $3 billion in annual sales before the company was acquired by Teva for $7.5 billion in 2008. During his tenure, Forbes magazine named him among the 200 Best Small Companies’ Chief Executives. As CEO of the firm, Cohen testified before Congress to expose several corrupt officials at the FDA who were later found guilty of taking bribes and manipulating the drug approval process.
Cohen was a founding member of the Generic Pharmaceutical Industry Association (the predecessor to the Association for Accessible Medicines) and a founding member and executive board member of the National Association of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers. He also served as chairman of New Concepts for Living, an organization that provides support for people living with developmental disabilities.
After he graduated from Fordham, Cohen earned an M.B.A. from the City College of New York and completed a program in organizational change and marketing management at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business. He enjoyed traveling with his wife and had a keen interest in New York City architecture and World War II history.
He is survived by his wife, Nadia; daughter, Andrea Cohen-Lenihan; and three sons, Richard, Steven, and Michael.