First Steps

Cutting-edge treatments for MS created right here in Hawthorne

Hawthorne- based Acorda Therapeutics has done well over the past four years: sales have grown from under $6 million in 2005 to $50 million in 2009, a nearly eight-fold increase. Now the biotech company is poised to do even better, thanks to the FDA approval for its MS-fighting drug, Ampyra.

“This drug improves walking within a couple of weeks,” says Acorda Therapeutics President and CEO Ron Cohen, MD. Acorda also markets the prescription medication Zanaflex, an oral medication to treat severe muscle spasms associated with MS and related conditions.
Dr. Cohen, an internist who studied at Columbia Medical School, started the company in his spare bedroom. Eventually, though, he needed more space. “I’d found leading scientists in nerve recovery and spinal cord injury from around the country and Europe. We needed labs and offices.” He nearly moved the company to Maryland but then found an affordable property in Hawthorne that had previously housed a biomedical company.

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Today, his company employs 280 people, and the company is developing therapies to treat and repair brain and spinal cord injuries. One compound it developed, GGF2, designed to repair brain and heart cells and tissue, is entering clinical trials.

“We hope to acquire somewhat advanced therapies that are already in a clinical stage to expand our pipeline and deliver more drugs to the community,” Dr. Cohen says. “We’re looking all over the world for something to license or buy to bring to Westchester to work on.”

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