VCIR…And Bio Too!

Guest post by Adam Rubenstein

What an honor to be pinged by Dave Cohen to guest post here on ColoradoStartups with my perspective on the bio side of Venture Capital in the Rockies.

Quickly, I maintain a pseudo-equivalent blog to ColoradoStartups, Colorado
Life Science Deal Flow
where the focus is on the start-up bio-scape in Colorado, at OnBioVC I observe the broader trends in life science investing, and as the
co-founder of the Fitzsimons BioBusiness Incubator it empowers me with an insight into the nuts and bolts of the local bio-entrepreneurial community.

Without a doubt the CO life science industry took a significant leap forward this year. The growth of the region is evidenced not only by the number of presenters at this year’s conference but also in the log growth in the number of applicant companies.

To put life science investing in perspective relative to the funding needs and time to market cycles of many IT plays consider this…it takes approximately (source dependent) ten years and $750 million to $1 billion dollars to get a drug to market. Add to these staggering metrics an average of 7-years of remaining patent life post market, along with the need to have multiple developmental programs concurrently progressing to aid in risk mitigation and the need for pharma to produce blockbuster (>$1B) drugs may become a bit more clear.

The presenting companies at VCIR are generally early in their cycle, where the products presented may fall anywhere between pre-clinical development to Phase I or II (of III or sometimes IV) stages of human clinical trials; in other words, years away from commercialization yet increasing their value each day with each piece of positive data. Consider the recent acquisition of Westminster, CO-based Myogen by Gilead for $2.5 billion last October for a product that is still a minimum of six-months away from receiving FDA approval, or the acquisition of Boulder, CO-based Sirna Therapeutics by Merck for $1.1 billion last November for a product that is a minimum of three to five-years away from approval!

Now to the VCIR presenters…

GlobeImmune – (Louisville, CO) Has developed a platform technology called
Tarmogens® (or Targeted Molecular Immunogens) and is focused on the treatment of chronic hepatitis C and certain cancers mediated by an oncogene called Ras, such as colorectal, non-small cell lung carcinoma, pancreas and ovarian cancers. The technology has also been licensed to MycoLogics who is focused upon the treatment and prevention of fungal diseases such as coccidioidomycosis, aspergillosis, cryptococcosis, candidiasis and leishmaniasis.

Apoplogic Pharmaceuticals – (Aurora, CO) The second “p” is silent. The company was founded by Richard Duke, Ph.D., who previously co-founded Ceres Pharmaceuticals and GlobeImmune. The company is focused upon products that target apoptotic (programmed cell death) pathways found in cancers, leukemia’s and lymphomas.

ARCA Discovery – (Denver, CO) Founded by Michael Bristow, M.D., Ph.D. who had previously founded Myogen and the Cardiovascular Institute at the University Colorado Health Science Center. ARCA is developing and commercializing genetically-targeted therapies for heart failure and other cardiovascular diseases. The lead product is bucindolol® a beta-blocker and vasodilator for heart failure and other indications.

BaroFold – (Boulder, CO) Is poised to transform the way pharma manufactures
recombinant proteins. A patented technology employs the use of hydrostatic pressure to disaggregate and refold proteins into their proper “active” conformations. BaroFold is able to deliver a more pure (safer) product at higher concentrations and thus higher yields saving manufacturing time and reducing costs. The process has been successfully tested in greater that 200 proteins to date.

Taligen Therapeutics – (Aurora, CO) Is focused upon novel inhibitors of the alternative complement pathway and anti-factor B antibodies in particular. The lead indications for these therapeutics, for the treatment of inflammation, are asthma and age-related macular degeneration. An investigational new drug application is expected to be filed with the food and drug administration in 2007.

LigoCyte – (Bozeman, MT) Has two programs focusing upon vaccines and therapeutic monoclonal antibodies. Indications for their vax program include norovirus, anthrax, and influenza. On the infectious disease side include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

The remaining presenting companies fall into a non-therapeutic bucket, where they range from medical devices, bio-informatics and discovery tools-based companies.

Abla-Tx (Boulder, CO) has developed a software algorithm to help guide
minimally invasive surgical techniques (e.g. RF, microwave and, high energy ultrasound energies) to fully ablate the treatment zone of inoperable tumors.

High Throughput Genomics (Tucson, AZ) is developing molecular biology-based tools to improve and accelerate the drug discovery process. Their Nuclease Protection Assay allows for the accurate identification of low and moderately expressed genes that undergo the slightest changes to yield disease

Veran Medical Technologies (Nashville, TN) AccuSample™ Biopsy System and the IG4™ 4-Dimensional Navigation System address the need for improvement in Minimally Invasive Delivery Technologies. Veran systems aid the planning, precision delivery, and monitoring of thermal energy tissue
coagulation while reducing adverse side effects of nephrotoxic contrast agents and hazardous radiation levels, complication rates, repeat procedures, efficiency, and cost of healthcare. Crosstrees Medical is developing devices and tools for the treatment of vertebral body compression fractures in the spine.

Q Therapeutics is developing cell-based therapies using naturally-occurring glial progenitor cells to treat demyelinating CNS diseases.

The Colorado life science industry is growing by leaps and bounds. With the development of the new medical campus at Fitzsimons and the 160-acre Colorado Bioscience Park @ Fitzsimons scheduled to break ground this spring I would not be surprised to see VCIR have to add a day to accommodate all of the emerging bio and IT companies.

I am happy to delve into more detail on any of these companies, just shoot me an email.

And thanks Dave, looking forward to VCIR 2008!

file under: Blog, Startups