A venture veteran hears the call of clinical development
Just before Scott Minick joined Arch Venture Partners back in 1998, he made his mark as president and COO of Sequus Pharmaceuticals, which developed the cancer drug Doxil, a therapy encased inside liposomes and targeted to tumor cells.
Minick's still clearly proud of that accomplishment. But he also knows that the technology for delivering therapies has change a lot in the past 12 years.
"Liposomes have significant limitations," says Minick, with a limited range of molecules in its repertoire as well as a short-list of potential destinations in the body.
"I'd been looking for a better technology for years until I found Bind Biosciences a couple of years ago," says Minick. Bind's nanotechnology approach boasted a much broader platform that could handle a wide array of different molecules. "In addition, you can change the properties of nanoparticles to get different characteristics. You can engineer the drug characteristics you're looking for."
For two years, Minick was happy to play the traditional role of a venture partner, sitting on the board, watching the investment and calculating its chances of success. Things changed considerably, though, when Glenn Batchelder ended his tenure as CEO to reportedly join a start-up. As the experienced player in this field, it made sense for Minick to help out running the company part time until a replacement chief executive could be recruited.
"Two days a month rapidly turned into a couple of days a week," recalls Minick. "Finally the board said, why not join full time? But it wasn't anything I was looking to do."
A full-time commitment couldn't have come easily. Minick is moving from his West Coast base to Boston to take the reins fulltime. Minick isn't waiting to lay the groundwork for a Phase I trial of a lead program that will test the company's approach on precisely delivering docetaxel, a chemotherapy that's in use for a variety of solid tumors and slated to quickly lose patent protection.
It's a double-edged strategy: Focus on a better way to deliver therapeutic products that are coming off patent and collaborate with pharmaceutical companies that have products at various stages of development. And Minick believes that Bind can start signing partnership agreements with pharma companies later this year.
Bind, which was named as a Fierce 15 company in 2008, has 29 staffers on board. And as the lead program is slated to begin a Phase I trial toward the end of this year, that's likely going to grow somewhat, says the newly minted CEO.
Minick plans to continue to work closely with the company's two high-profile scientific founders; the prolific MIT Professor Bob Langer and Omid Farokhzad, who teaches at Harvard Medical School.
At the time Minick joined as CEO, Bind was also welcoming a new investor to the mix of backers. David Koch contributed to an $11 million round. Koch, whose family founded Koch Industries, has been very active in the cancer research field. And he may be asked to join future rounds.
"In biotech, you're always raising more money, looking for additional funding going forward," says Minick.
Minick isn't comfortable talking about all of the company's timelines, and he isn't offering any hard and fast predictions on when the company can reach proof-of-concept. Still, the latest round will help the company reach some important goals. If he's ultimately successful, Minick will be faced with the question of either going public and staying independent or striking an M&A deal just as he did at Sequus.
"My approach to this is that you just build a great company," says Minick. "I don't know an effective way in biotech to build for a sale or go public. You just build a great company with great products.
"I'm voting with my feet," adds Minick. "Venture capital is a great place to be. Arch is a great partnership, and I've enjoyed working with that team. To dial that down and move to Bind full-time tells you how excited I am about the company."