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Tarsus Prioritizes Fun Amidst Disease Work

Employees at Tarsus Pharmaceuticals ­Inc. study some of the world’s creepiest illnesses, such as mites in eyes.

“It is really gross—mites in our eyelids that are having a party and creating a disease,” Chief Executive Bobak “Bobby” Azamian told the Business Journal.

To keep the atmosphere light, the Irvine-based drugmaker works to provide a fun environment by hosting events such as “Friday Night Mites” and “Thirsty Tarsan Thursday” where employees can spend time together.

Its employees are called “Tarsans.”

“There are so many puns you can make,” Azamian said. “We get those ideas for activities from everybody. Those are not top-down ideas.”

This example is one of the reasons Tarsus Pharmaceuticals for the second straight year was named one of the Business Journal’s Best Places to Work in Orange County. It ranks No. 21 on the midsize company list for firms with between 50 and 249 employees companywide (see list, page 34).

­The Link Link

Azamian has a long pedigree in startups involved in science and medicine.

He worked at a Nobel Prize-winning lab at Rice University that was a pioneer in nanotechnology.

After he received an MD from Harvard Medical School, he went to work at Versant Capital, the venture capital firm of Bill Link, one of Orange County’s best-known investors in early-stage ophthalmology companies.

He’s also been involved in Octane, the Orange County business incubator.

“I have had incredible mentors and colleagues,” Azamian said. “The cultures that Bill has been a part of have been so focused on doing the right thing. A month ago, we had Bill and Marsha Link come over and share their insights to see how great companies are built.”

When Azamian co-founded Tarsus with Michael Ackermann in 2016, he didn’t know about Demodex blepharitis, an ocular disease that occurs when Demodex mites—the most common ectoparasite found on humans—infest the eyelid.

The disease affects some 25 million Americans and currently has no FDA-approved treatment.

The company is developing TP-03, a novel topical therapeutic that is being launched this fall. The company, which has almost 140 employees, is planning to hire 85 new “Tarsans” for which it already has 2,000 applications, Azamian said.

Tarsus has several other therapeutics in its pipeline for other common diseases that typically don’t have treatments, such as TP-05, an oral, non-vaccine treatment for Lyme disease, which is currently being studied in a clinical trial.

Since going public at $16 a share in 2020, the share price settled last week around $17.59 as of last week.

Tarsus, which has raised over $160 million since its IPO, currently has a $468 million market cap.

4-Week Vacations

The company provides dozens of benefits. Among them:

– Pays 100% premium for healthcare, vision and other services; four weeks a year for vacation; and a 401(k) match.
– Flexibility to work remote and maternity/ parental leave up to 16 weeks fully paid post-birth.
– Two “shutdown weeks” for recharge and wellness. It provides two floating holidays, two recharge days and volunteer time off.

“A high salary is not enough,” Azamian said. “It has to be a place where we feel we want to go to work every day with people we want to work with every day. We’re getting more out of a job than just a salary.”

Do investors complain that the company is so generous with benefits?

“We’re mindful that we have yet to launch our products,” Azamian said.

“We also realize that our talent is our most precious resource. I’m really proud that we have a far lower turnover than other pharmaceuticals companies.

 

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Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung joined the Orange County Business Journal in 2021 as their Marketing Creative Director. In her role she creates all visual content as it relates to the marketing needs for the sales and events teams. Her responsibilities include the creation of marketing materials for six annual corporate events, weekly print advertisements, sales flyers in correspondence to the editorial calendar, social media graphics, PowerPoint presentation decks, e-blasts, and maintains the online presence for Orange County Business Journal’s corporate events.
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