Home » 5 South Africans who founded billion-dollar pharma companies

5 South Africans who founded billion-dollar pharma companies

by Omokolade Ajayi
Stephen Saad

In the heart of Africa’s wealth, South Africa stands tall as the center of prosperity, commanding a staggering $650 billion of private wealth. As the continent’s largest wealth market and industrial powerhouse, it’s no surprise that this nation has birthed innovative minds who have transcended borders and enriched societies.

Among these changemakers are visionary South Africans who have carved an indelible mark in the pharmaceutical realm, spearheading billion-dollar enterprises that resonate globally. Leading this charge is Stephen Saad, the mastermind behind Africa’s largest pharmaceutical giant, Aspen Pharmacare. Saad has erected a billion-dollar empire, cementing his position as one of Africa’s top pharma tycoons.

In tandem, the dynamic duo of Ivan and Lynette Saltzman has propelled Dis-Chem Pharmacies to paramount heights. With a network of over 300 stores, they’ve sculpted a premier retail chain stretching its arms across Africa.

Venturing into the crucial arena of cancer treatment, South African-U.S. billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong emerges as a leader in the pharmaceutical industry. Born in South Africa and now boasting a net worth of $9.21 billion, Soon-Shiong has revolutionized cancer therapy. The pinnacle of his innovation lies in Abraxane, a groundbreaking cancer treatment that has garnered universal acclaim.

Billionaires.Africa shines a spotlight on these five South African trailblazers, visionary minds who have not just founded pharmaceutical companies worth billions but have also propelled South Africa onto the global stage of medical innovation.

  1. Stephen Saad

Founder of Aspen Pharmacare

Stephen Saad is renowned as a trailblazing entrepreneur and the co-founder of Aspen Pharmacare, the largest pharmaceutical manufacturer in Africa. Under his visionary leadership, Aspen Pharmacare has achieved remarkable success, operating across 150 countries and gaining recognition as a global producer and distributor of generic medicines.

Saad, along with Gus Attridge, embarked on their entrepreneurial journey by acquiring local pharmacies in 1999. This initial venture expanded swiftly from its Durban origins to the international stage, driving Aspen Pharmacare’s impressive growth into a billion-dollar pharmaceutical giant. A notable milestone in the company’s legacy was the pioneering development of Africa’s first generic antiretroviral HIV drug in 2003, followed by entry into the infant formula market. Saad’s enduring dedication to Aspen Pharmacare is exemplified by his 12.5-percent ownership stake, valued at approximately $553.3 million, underscoring his substantial contribution to the company’s ongoing legacy.

  1. Ivan Saltzman

Founder of Dis-Chem Pharmacies

Ivan Saltzman, a visionary entrepreneur, and his wife Lynette are the driving forces behind the success of Dis-Chem Pharmacies, a prominent name in the South African pharmaceutical landscape. Co-founding the company in 1978, Ivan and Lynette Saltzman’s tireless efforts have propelled Dis-Chem from its modest beginnings to a vast network of over 300 retail stores, boasting a workforce exceeding 20,000 professionals. With an impressive 35.12 percent ownership stake, Ivan Saltzman stands among South Africa’s premier investors. Over 45 years, the Saltzmans have reaped substantial financial rewards through dividends earned from their significant stake. Dis-Chem’s diverse offerings, including linked dispensaries, family clinics, wound care centers, and self-medication hubs, reflect the Saltzmans’ commitment to enhancing South Africa’s healthcare and pharmacy retail sectors.

  1. Lynette Saltzman

Co-Founder of Dis-Chem Pharmacies

Lynette Saltzman, an instrumental figure in the growth of Dis-Chem Pharmacies, stands as a key player in South Africa’s pharmaceutical industry. Her collaborative efforts with her husband, Ivan, in founding Dis-Chem in 1978 have catalyzed the company’s journey to become a leading name in the African healthcare sector. Lynette’s early contributions and continued leadership have played a pivotal role in expanding Dis-Chem’s reach to encompass a sprawling network of more than 300 retail stores and a workforce exceeding 20,000 professionals. The Saltzmans’ indirect 35.12-percent stake in Dis-Chem Pharmacies positions them as influential figures among South Africa’s foremost investors. Their steady accumulation of dividends from this stake underscores their financial gains. With Dis-Chem’s current market capitalization standing at $1.11 billion, Lynette Saltzman’s legacy is etched into the company’s enduring success.

  1. Patrick Soon-Shiong

Founder of ImmunityBio

Patrick Soon-Shiong, a South African-born billionaire, has left an indelible mark on the global healthcare industry. With a net worth of $8.98 billion, Soon-Shiong’s impact is underscored by his groundbreaking contributions. He is the mastermind behind the development of the innovative cancer treatment Abraxane and the founder of pharmaceutical companies APP Pharmaceuticals and Abraxis BioScience. These ventures were successfully sold, accumulating a combined $7.5 billion. Presently holding a commanding 76-percent stake in the publicly-listed late-stage immunotherapy firm ImmunityBio, Soon-Shiong continues to shape the industry. ImmunityBio, founded in 2014, is a beacon of cutting-edge immunotherapies for cancer and infectious diseases. With his stake valued at $1.6 billion, Soon-Shiong’s legacy resonates through his pioneering pursuits.

  1. Gus Attridge

Co-Founder of Aspen Pharmacare

Gus Attridge’s entrepreneurial prowess is underscored by his co-founding role alongside Stephen Saad in Aspen Pharmacare, a transformative force in the pharmaceutical world. Established in 1997, this venture has soared under Attridge’s guidance to become one of the largest global generic drugmakers. Serving as deputy CEO and finance director, Attridge’s leadership has driven Aspen Pharmacare’s expansion through strategic acquisitions in 2013, establishing a global presence with manufacturing facilities across Australia, Brazil, Mexico, Germany, South Africa, and Tanzania. With a notable 4.28-percent ownership stake, Attridge’s contributions are integral to the company’s impressive $4.56-billion valuation. His stake’s value of $195 million attests to his enduring commitment to Aspen Pharmacare’s growth and success.

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