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Crystallics, a new contract research organisation specialising in solid-state research and pre-formulation activities for the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and agrochemical industries, has been established in the Netherlands through a management buyout of the former Avantium Pharma business from its parent company, Avantium Holding.
Phytopharm (UK) has appointed Tim Sharpington chief executive officer and board director. Sandy Morrison, the company's interim CEO, will revert to his position as a non-executive director. Mr Sharpington has nearly 20 years' experience in the life sciences sector with various biotechnology and pharmaceutical service companies. In 2002, he was development director at Arakis, which was sold to Sosei in 2005 for £107 million. After leaving Arakis, he founded and became CEO of Serentis in 2006. Mr Sharpington is also a non-executive director of Clinical Force, a clinical trial software and service company.
Dr Robert Tansley has joined the UK biopharmaceutical company Serentis as chief medical officer. He was previously development and medical director of Sosei R&D. Dr Tansley has also held roles in development and regulatory affairs at Sanofi, Roche, Arakis and as a medical assessor in the licensing division of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
The UK biotech industry has problems, that much is clear. Private UK companies are struggling to raise even small amounts of money and public companies have seen their share prices tank as they run out of cash or suffer high-profile product failures. For example, Intercytex's Cyzact for the treatment of venous leg ulcers recently failed to meet its primary endpoint in a Phase III study.
However, one UK company has achieved what few others have done since the middle of last year and raised a substantial amount of private funding.
Heptares Therapeutics, a private UK biotechnology company, has secured £21 million in a series A funding round led by Clarus Ventures.
The only other investors in the financing round were MVM Life Science Partners and the Novartis Option Fund. However, the small number of investors could be interpreted as Heptares actively selecting established investors that can contribute to the business rather than a lack of confidence in the company, said its CEO, Dr Malcolm Weir.
Dr Malcolm Weir,
CEO Heptares Therapeutics
Heptares initially drew interest from 15 investors but this was whittled down to the final syndicate of three. Michael Steinmetz of Clarus Ventures and Anja Koenig of the Novartis Option Fund have joined the Heptares board of directors and it is hoped that all three investors will bring a range of investment and pharmaceutical experience to the company's operations.
The investors were also chosen due to their size and financial clout. Although Dr Weir said that Heptares had no immediate plans to undertake additional financing rounds, there is a certain amount of security from the substantial funds that the investors have at their disposal.
Heptares was spun-out from the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in 2007, based on the work of scientists Dr Richard Henderson and Dr Chris Tate.
It intends to use the new funds to develop its own pipeline of small-molecule drug candidates using its proprietary StaR technology platform. The drug candidates will be developed against currently intractable GPCRs.
The company intends to seek a partner to pursue drug development for Parkinson's disease by early 2010.
UK biotech's need for properly allocated cash injection
Apart from Heptares, the number of UK biotechs raising money has been miniscule since the global economic crisis took a stranglehold of the market after the collapse of the financial services firm Lehman Brothers last September.
Serentis, a biopharmaceutical company, expanded its series A financing round last August, raising a total of £15.3 million. Since then, no private UK biotech or biopharmaceutical company has secured investments, according to Scrip's monthly private investment round-up.
This has led numerous UK biotech leaders to lobby the government to set up a £1billion public-private fund. The dossier's signatories include key industry figures such as Sir Christopher Evans, head of the biotech fund manager Excalibur; Chris Collins, CEO of Nomura Code Securities; Jeremy Curnock-Cook, chairman of Bioscience Managers; and Professor Trevor Jones, former director general of the ABPI (ScripOnline, December 5th, 2008).
Despite the assurances of Sir Christopher and the other signatories, many within the industry are unsure how successfully funds would be allocated.
Dr Weir described the proposal as a good rationale as there are "a number of good biotech companies struggling" in the current climate. However, he stressed that any money put into the fund must be managed carefully and used to bring the right companies to their full operating potential.
If the fund is setup by the government and industry leaders it might be possible to calm what Sir Christopher described as the perfect storm, as a lack of funds adds to flaws in the basic structure of UK biotech's business model.
If not, the question remains as to whether others, perhaps emboldened by Heptares' success, might follow in the company's fundraising footsteps.
- Therapeutic Areas
- Metabolic Disorders
- Wound Healing & Tissue Repair
- Western Europe
- Parent & Subsidiaries
- Serentis Inc.
- Senior Management
Tim Sharpington, CEO
Peter Keen, Dir., Corp. Dev. & Fin.
Alan Rothaul, PhD, CSO
Robert Tansley, MD, CMO
- Contact Info
Phone: (44) 1223 437064
23 Cambridge Science Park
Cambridge, CB4 0EY
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