Focus: Hepatitis C drug
Based: Pittsboro, NC
Biolex found itself on the wrong side of the R&D revolution in hepatitis C in recent years. Hopes fizzled for the company's candidate against the liver-damaging virus in July, when news surfaced that it was throwing in the towel after filing for bankruptcy and burning through some $190 million.
The company was developing a drug called Locteron, a timed-release version of interferon for treating patients with hepatitis. Unfortunately for Biolex, the biopharma industry has moved toward all-oral therapies that spare patients from having to take interferon. Interferon can make people feel more ill than hepatitis. Gilead Sciences ($GILD), Abbott Labs ($ABT), Vertex Pharmaceuticals ($VRTX) and others are in a closely watched race to advance their all-oral, interferon-free therapies to the market with ambitious R&D plans.
The North Carolina biotech wasn't in any of these plans, much to the chagrin of its roster of A-list backers who were hoping for a hep C hit. Despite scratching plans for an IPO in 2008 when disaster struck the financial system, Biolex had drummed up $60 million in support from Clarus Ventures, OrbiMed Advisors, Polaris Venture Partners, Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ), Intersouth Partners, Quaker BioVentures and the North Carolina Economic Development Fund.
Yet interferon has fallen way out of favor in hep C drug development, and no amount of money is going to change that right now.
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