Alder Biopharmaceuticals - 2010 Fierce 15

Based: Bothell, WA
Founded: 2004
CEO: Randall Schatzman

The Scoop: The conventional wisdom in biotech holds that startups must always gather up a group of venture backers before they start hiring a crew. But the news must never have made it to CEO Randall Schatzman, PhD, and his core team at Alder. They used their credit cards and borrowed office space to bootstrap Alder before roping in some seed capital. And they never looked back.

What Makes It Fierce: Armed with new production technologies for antibodies, one of the hottest technologies in the industry, Alder's crew got their venture backing. Their Series C closed with $40 million back in 2007, bringing the total haul to $67 million.

But the cash really started coming in in late 2009, when Bristol-Myers Squibb forked over $85 million as a down payment on their $1.07 billion pact covering Alder's lead program, ALD518, an IL-6 inhibitor for rheumatoid arthritis. And if the window on IPOs ever gets fully opened, BMS may get the chance to buy up $20 million in shares of Alder stock. Schering-Plough, GenMab and Seattle Genetics are all on board as collaborators as well.

BMS's upfront plus some near-term milestones leaves Alder with enough cash to roll ahead "well into 2014," says Schatzman. And they've been setting up a Phase IIb study in RA patients.

One of the reasons why Alder has achieved a high profile in the antibody space so quickly is due to its yeast-based approach to manufacturing antibodies, which is far more efficient than the traditional use of mammalian cells. If Alder's more efficient IL-6 therapy works as hoped, it can beat out therapies already on the market.

"The study we had done was in RA patients with an IV liquid formulation," notes the CEO, "which was nothing shy of spectacular in terms of the patient response." Another three abstracts are being readied for a conference in November, and Alder plans to make a splash once again. A dose-ranging study for a subcutaneous formulation is planned and will likely run into 2012. After that, the partners should be ready to tackle a late-stage study.

"We retained the rights to 518 in cancer and cancer supportive care and cancer-related anemia," adds Chief Business Officer Mark Litton, "and we are progressing on that aspect of the program as well."

"We had run an earlier study in cancer involving non small-cell lung cancer patients that was also successful in hitting the endpoints we had set out: preserving lean body mass, relieving their fatigue, with significant responses with respect to decreased thrombotic tendencies."

"Then behind that the guys in the labs are building a pipeline," says Schatzman. "This is where technology serves us well. We have the ability to identify antibodies with optimal therapeutic properties, and combine that with our manufacturing technology to go fast."

Alder isn't finished on the deal-making front, either.

"I would say in the next few quarters we will do another technology deal," says Litton. "We've been spending time with Japanese firms and a couple of big pharma companies."

Venture backers: Sevin Rosen Funds, Ventures West Management, WRF Capital, H.I.G. Ventures, Delphi Ventures and TPG Biotech

Alder Biopharmaceuticals - 2010 Fierce 15