Fierce 15 Winner

Based: Berkeley, CA
Founded: 2004

The Scoop: "With a fresh injection of venture funds and four mid-stage trials to shepherd, Aerovance has continued to live up to the promise it established when the company was spun out of Bayer."

What makes it Fierce: Spun out of Bayer Health Care in 2004, Aerovance has pushed its four leading programs into mid-stage trials. In phase IIa, Aerovant reduced the severity of asthma attacks by 72 percent compared to baseline, a statistically significant response for a small set of volunteers. The therapy also hit a biomarker for a reduction in airway inflammation. Aeroderm, also an IL-4 and IL-13 receptor antagonist, is in Phase IIa for eczema while Aerolytic--a proteinase inhibitor--is in Phase IIa for cystic fibrosis and Pulmolytic is in Phase IIa for COPD.

Last March Aerovance secured the second tranche of a $60 million third round of venture funds. That money will go to advance all four of its development programs. Aerolytic, its cystic fibrosis drug, delivers Phase IIa data this summer with a Phase IIb for Aerovant planned to launch later this year.

Aerovance emerged from Bayer with a small band of 20 employees and a focused game plan for all four programs, says CEO Mark Perry. Perry, an experienced biotech executive with a 10-year track record at Gilead, was named CEO at the beginning of this year after serving on the board. The company hasn't grown much in terms of payroll since its inception--it's now up to 30--and it's clearly kept its focus.

The latest injection of venture funding is enough to give the company plenty of leeway to push Aerovant through Phase IIb, says Perry, giving it time to work through its ongoing discussions for a worldwide commercialization pact. Perry is actively pursuing a partnership for Aerovant and may not have to wait much longer to get it.

What to look for: A big partnership on Aerovant (this fall?) could deliver significant new revenue to the company and provides a strategy for pushing these programs into late-stage trials. After that, says Perry, the company can ponder an IPO for 2008--or perhaps a buyout. The cystic fibrosis program is the kind of therapy the company could commercialize on its own as it pulls other compounds out of the "freezer" it gained from Bayer. But anytime you engage in collaboration discussions, says Perry, "history says that sometimes they turn into acquisitions."


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