A Case for Preclinical Biopharma Companies

Despite the talk about how later-stage companies are being more favored, Jeff Himawan from Essex Woodlands Health Ventures made a very good case for preclinical stage biopharmaceutical investments at the recent LARTA Life Sciences Venture Forum. Concert Pharmaceuticals recently announced a partnership with GSK for three preclinical programs potentially worth over $1 billion in milestone and option payments. The lead compound, CTP-518, is a novel HIV protease inhibitor expected to enter Phase I trials the second half of 2009. Chroma Therapeutics also entered into a partnership with GSK for four discovery and development programs to identify small molecule therapeutics, including a macrophage-targeted HDAC inhibitor program for inflammatory disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis. The partnership is also potentially worth more than $1 billion. Last year, Daiichi Sankyo acquired U3 Pharma AG for $235 million. U3’s lead program, which is partnered with Amgen, is a fully-human HER-3 monoclonal antibody that will start clinical trials by the end of the year. Obviously, investing in preclinical programs are risky, but with most investors focusing on later-stage opportunities, there might be some good bargains at the early-stage.

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