Band of West Coast biotech insiders pushes oral anticoagulant to PhIII

Peter Milner

Some well-known biopharma execs on the West Coast, including Impax Labs ($IPXL) founder and former CEO Larry Hsu, have teamed up on a low budget, late-stage program for an oral anticoagulant. Founded by Ken Kengatharan, Pascal Druzgala and Peter Milner, who also helped launch CV Therapeutics and ARYx Therapeutics, Armetheon rounded up a $7 million A round from Hsu, AshHill Biomedical Investments and Hercules Bioventures, which the biotech says is enough to point their lead product into a pivotal study.

They're shepherding Tecarfarin, an oral anticoagulant for a group of patients that includes people who depend on mechanical heart valves. The drug is a vitamin-K antagonist, which they say is designed to avoid the kind of bleeding episodes common to warfarin, making it possible for patients to use the oral therapy with less supervision.

Armetheon is looking to exploit a particular niche in the market, which has attracted a number of oral anticoagulants in recent years. When the company put out word about the special protocol assessment it set up for the late-stage study, Armetheon noted that the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology were telling specialists to stick with warfarin, despite its well known risks for bleeding, and avoid the new oral rivals on the market when treating patients with valvular disease. That could position their drug as a safer alternative, if Phase III pans out.

Milner, who's also been working with Corey Goodman on the biotech Heart Metabolics, is teamed up with Kengatharan, the co-founder of San Francisco-based Altheos, which last raised cash in 2012 for a glaucoma treatment. And the board includes Steven P. James, formerly CEO of Labrys Biologics.

"The funds will be used to keep to our NDA filing timeline in 2017 for Tecarfarin," said Milner, who's taken the chairman's role in the venture, in a statement. "Tecarfarin, if approved, could become an important alternative VKA that is not metabolized via CYP enzymes or handled by P-glycoprotein.Studies have shown that existing OACs, including warfarin, interact with CYP-metabolizing enzymes or P-glycoprotein."  

- here's the release