Dr. Joan Fallon was working as a pediatric chiropractor specializing in children with disabilities when she noticed that most of her young patients with autism avoided eating protein. They favored what she called “The 10 Things Diet,” limited to bagels, waffles, cereals, and other tan foods.
Autism experts told Fallon the behavior was a sensory issue. But Fallon had a hunch the cause was physiological. After additional clinical training, she began testing children with autism. Fallon discovered her subjects had low levels of a specific enzyme that’s key to digesting proteins. Further, that enzyme was related to neurological development.
Today, Fallon is the founder and CEO of Curemark, a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company based in Rye. CM-AT, an enzyme-replacement drug for autism that targets the gastrointestinal tract, is in its second Phase III clinical trial and has been fast-tracked by the FDA. The company is also exploring the link between the gut and other neurological conditions, like schizophrenia and Parkinson’s.
A Yankees season-ticket holder since ’97, Fallon never imagined herself as an entrepreneur, let alone raising $60 million in venture capital for her own company. “What compelled me were the kids,” she explains. “Working one-on-one was great, but if I could help millions…that was something I needed to do.”