Posts Tagged Nektar Therapeutics
“Entrepreneurs must Focus on Market Pain” – Norman Winarsky, SRI
EPPIC organization was found in 1998, with a mission to promote networking, entrepreneurship, and mentoring for life science professionals. Each year, EPPIC Annual Conference provides a wonderful forum to realize this mission. EPPICon on March 29, 2014 was held at Westin, SF and began with opening remarks by Dr. Norman Winarksy, Vice President at SRI Ventures.
SRI or Stanford Research Institute was found in 1946 to help Stanford University professors make an impact in the world. It has a staff of 2500, of whom 1000 have advanced degrees and current revenue is in the range of $600M. Many revolutionary technologies like the mouse (invented by Doug Engelbart whom I had an opportunity to meet, before he passed away, when I took his picture inserted here with the first red mouse that investor Peter Gerber is holding), electronic banking, robotic surgery (which spun out as Intuitive Surgical), and SIRI to name a few, have come out of SRI. All SRI personnel are taught to identify the value proposition and work towards that goal, said Winarksy. SRI is a non-profit organization but gives 34% of royalty to the individual or the team that worked on the specific technology and that is how SRI competes with high salaries in Silicon Valley. SRI process always begins with identifying the market pain, ideally a larger market opportunity. Out of about 2000 opportunities identified, about 3-4 get funded and get about 10X return; many of the others become licensing deals and the rest die. Currently Tempo, a smart calendar is showing a lot of promise, said Winarsky. This was a great start to a day that proceeded with excellent panels, speed pitch sessions and SIG networking opportunities.
Next EPPIC event will be held on May 6 at 6pm at Cubberley Theater, 4000 Middlefield Rd, Palo Alto. Dr. Sarvajna Dwivedi, CSO at Pearl Therapeutics will talk about the entrepreneurship journey that took him and his co-founder to build from a tiny spin out, from Nektar Therapeutics, a world class multi-site organization. Pearl Therapeutics was bought by Astra Zeneca last year, for $1.15 B. To register for the event go to http://www.eppicglobal.org .
On “Building a Pearl” – Story of Pearl Therapeutics from Concept to Acquisition by Astra Zeneca for $1.15B
Posted by Darshana V. Nadkarni, Ph.D. in Biotech - Medical Device - Life Science - Healthcare on March 17, 2014
Pearl Therapeutics is a huge success story in the biotech world. At www.bio2devicegroup.org event, Dr. Sarvajna Dwivedi, co-founder of Pearl Therapeutics talked about his own professional journey and about Pearl team, technology and products, that brought the company to pearly stunning $1.15 Billion exit. Pearl Therapeutics was acquired by Astra Zeneca in June, 2013.
Dwivedi began the talk by paying tribute to his mentors, his father, Professor Rewa Prasad Dwivedi, his first role model and a reknowed Sanskrit scholar and poet, his professor Dr. Alan Mitchell at University of British Columbia who imparted important lessons on staying true to fundamentals and understanding the properties of nature, and Silicon Valley’s prolific inventor Mr. Mir Imran, who told him long before he needed to raise money, “don’t ever take investor’s money, unless you can treat it as your own”. Dwivedi said he carried all those valuable lessons in his professional journey.
After his education where he worked on tablets, Dwivedi was invited to join Glaxo to work on inhalation products. When he was concerned about making a jump from tablets to inhalation products, he was told “you know how to keep particles together, you would know how to keep them apart too”. From Glaxo, he went on to Dura, where he worked on an electromechanical inhaler system, a complex 50 part device. Then at Alkermes, Dwivedi put together a team which designed a device with a precessing capsule inside. Each of these opportunities contributed to giving him a stronger grounding into fundamentals.
Eventually, his career journey brought him to Nektar Therapeutics. Nektar was focusing on systemic conditions like diabetes, to be treated by inhalation delivery of drugs like insulin, and on anti-infective therapies for lungs. Dwivedi and his colleagues were looking at delivering drugs uniformly into the lungs for diseases such as asthma and COPD, and especially make drug combinations with standard metered dose inhalers. Global COPD or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma market is projected to reach $47 billion, by 2017. These were compelling clinical problems that Dwivedi and his colleagues were trying to solve, but Nektar chose to stay focused on other opportunities. Eventually, Dwivedi and his co-founder Adrian Smith formed Pearl Therapeutics and spun it out as a separate company.
Pearl Therapeutics has combined two bronchodilator drugs in one inhaler, and put it into Phase III. Pearl has now demonstrated that it can also combine three drugs, to treat the fatal lung condition, COPD. These drugs typically do not mix well together in a common inhaler and that leads to less than ideal distribution of the drugs in the lungs. Pearl’s secret is its proprietary technology. Dwivedi said the lessons he learned earlier in life regarding staying true to fundamentals and to not fight nature, were most useful in navigating these challenges. The nature of particles is to coalesce, and therefore it’s very difficult to keep them separate for aerosolization purposes. This can be achieved easily with liquid propellant suspensions, such as those in commonly used metered dose inhalers. Pearl creates these suspensions with a proprietary technology utilizing specially engineered phospholipid porous particles. When these inhalers are actuated then the porous particles go back from liquid to vapor, facilitating consistent and uniform inhalation delivery. The porous particles traverse the back of the throat easily and spread aerosols throughout the lung. Astra Zeneca saw the tremendous promise in this technology, the product progression achieved by Pearl, the value of the product pipeline at Pearl, and the Pearl team assembled by Dwivedi and his co-founder, Smith. AZ forked over $1 B+ and acquired Pearl, with a promise to enable Pearl to continue to operate independently. This was very interesting talk and generated a great deal of discussion.