Big Pharma companies continue to rationalize their massive pipelines and in the process leave compounds on the shelf, while academic labs offer another viable source of molecules for licensing. Combine these wellsprings and others, and virtual biotech ventures have plenty of opportunities to find pharma assets for further development.
Pfizer ($PFE), the world's biggest of the big drugmakers, has been actively shedding candidates from its pipeline as CEO Ian Read shrinks and narrows the focus of R&D at the behemoth. To name two examples, Verastem ($VSTM) in the Boston area and Puma Biotechnology in Los Angeles have both in-licensed anti-cancer compounds from Pfizer that serve as the featured assets at the two biotechs. Merck ($MRK) is another company that has been picking and choosing which compounds to keep in its pipeline.
Tioga's lead compound asimadoline in Phase III development for IBS was uncovered by Merck KGaA, and like most virtual biotech companies the outfit saved the time and expense of drug discovery and jumped directly into clinical trials. And Arteaus Therapeutics snagged its experimental antibody for preventing migraines from Eli Lilly ($LLY). Tioga and Arteaus, which have largely virtual operations, are just two of many cases where startups have been built around assets from larger drugmakers.