Lawrence lands Cardurion CEO job after helping ArQule to Merck buyout

Peter Lawrence has taken up the CEO job at Cardurion Pharmaceuticals, a Takeda-partnered biotech that is moving a heart failure drug through the clinic. Lawrence landed the gig on the strength of a 14-year spell at ArQule that culminated in a $2.7 billion takeover by Merck.

Working out of facilities in Massachusetts and Japan, Cardurion has begun to carve out a niche in the cardiovascular disease space, landing a deal with Takeda and licensing a drug from Astellas to speed its progress into the clinic. Along the way, Takeda and Polaris Partners have invested in Cardurion, which has disclosed financings worth upward of $25 million with the Securities and Exchange Commission. 

Michael Mendelsohn, founder of Cardurion and former head of cardiovascular research at Merck Research Laboratories, guided the startup to those investments in his capacity as interim CEO. But with Cardurion moving deeper into the clinic, Mendelsohn is stepping aside to let Lawrence lead.

Lawrence arrives at Cardurion equipped with a résumé defined by a long stint at ArQule. With Lawrence in the chief operating officer post, ArQule grew into a clinical-phase biotech with a BTK inhibitor Merck deemed to be worth $2.7 billion. Lawrence’s stake in ArQule was valued at $1.8 million at the time of the Merck takeover.

In disclosing the appointment, Cardurion highlighted the role Lawrence played in raising money and striking deals while at ArQule. Details of some of those activities came to light in filings submitted in relation to Merck’s takeover of ArQule, which revealed that Lawrence was among the executives first approached about revised deal terms and, later, an outright acquisition. 

To date, Cardurion has struck deals to bring assets into the company or to partner out its preclinical capabilities. However, with plans to move PDE-9 inhibitor CRD-733 into more advanced trials in heart failure patients, building on the findings of a phase 1b study, Cardurion may soon need to either raise a sizable financing round or land a development partner.