Biotech vet grabs AstraZeneca drug, $26M to start building Corvidia

Michael Davidson

Three years after Michael Davidson and his colleagues sold the omega-3 drug Epanova to AstraZeneca ($AZN) in the $443 million Omthera buyout, the biotech exec has rounded up some fresh support from a seasoned ally in the venture world to begin building a new biotech focused on cardiovascular disease.

Davidson's Boston-based Corvidia has lined up a $26 million launch round from Sofinnova Partners, the Paris-based venture group that also backed Omthera, along with help from Appletree Partners. And they've begun to use their cash, in-licensing a cardio drug program from the pharma giant AstraZeneca with plans to get it into the clinic within months while building a preclinical pipeline.

The focus right now is on COR-001. Corvidia not only in-licensed the drug, the biotech also brought in the two scientists at AstraZeneca who were working on the drug to launch the Phase I.

Cardiovascular disease is a tough field for biotechs, as Omthera experienced first hand as it advanced a new therapy for high triglyceride levels. Typically, regulators require big, expensive studies to establish safety and efficacy, which can be prohibitive for small biotechs. But the strategy at Corvidia is to go after narrow, genetically defined patient populations as the company pursues a personalized medicine approach in R&D, says Sofinnova's Graziano Seghezzi, who has enjoyed a long working relationship with Davidson, a professor at the University of Chicago and former CMO at Omthera.

Right now that's about as far as the company wants to go in identifying the drug. There's no word on exactly which drug it is or what it's supposed to do, other than the fact that AstraZeneca no longer feels it fit in with their own ambitious plans in the field.

Davidson, who personally helped seed the company with Sofinnova, tells me that he's also adding another cardio drug program from the University of Chicago along with a preclinical effort from the NIH. 

The lead drug "came up through a group (at AstraZeneca) in Waltham," says Davidson, who also had worked for AstraZeneca after the Omthera buyout. But even though the cardiovascular group at AstraZeneca liked the pitch and the potential they had seen in a Phase I study, they had plenty of other priorities that needed to be funded first.

The biotech vet adds that he's been working on building this company for the past two years, gathering the assets and forming a group that will soon expand to 10 to 15 staffers. And he plans to stay in for the long haul.

"I've learned that if you want to build a cardiovascular company, you have to build a company that lasts," he says. "You can't guarantee someone will come in and buy you out" early on. So it makes sense to target drug programs that will rely on a diagnostic to identify smaller patient populations.

The next step will involve going for a fresh round of safety and efficacy data in the next year, which should set them up for another raise and another big step down the clinical pathway.

- here's the release