Kurt Graves - Intarcia

Staying focused amid a boom-and-bust market

Name: Kurt Graves
Title: CEO of Intarcia

Bucking the trend in biopharma, throughout the IPO boom of the past several years Kurt Graves decided against taking Intarcia public, a move that now seems wise as valuations lag sectorwide. Instead, the helmsman set out to raise a sizable pile of venture cash, allowing the Boston biotech to focus on lead product ITCA 650 through multiple successful late-stage trials and, potentially, an FDA approval later this year.

Intarcia has managed to help make a category that few VCs have been willing to touch, drug delivery devices, more investable--and an approval certainly will clinch that. Drug delivery devices like Intarcia's offer sustained administration over long periods of time with no patient effort, while others promise to provide more targeted drug delivery. Both of these approaches are likely to see more entrants in the coming years.

The Intarcia device, a matchstick-size implant that administers AstraZeneca's ($AZN) exenatide to regulate blood glucose, requires yearly replacement, a significant lifestyle advantage to daily or weekly injections and an adherence bonus to add to its clinical promise. Last August, the combo bested Merck's ($MRK) Januvia at reducing blood sugar and lowering body weight in a late-stage trial involving 535 patients.

Since joining the company in 2010, Graves has maneuvered Intarcia in unconventional ways to position the biotech in a spot now enviable by many peers. Rather than dealing with the tumult of the public markets or signing rights away with a major partnership, Intarcia has instead largely focused on advancing its lead product.

The company's venture financing, $1 billion, would be plenty to fund a potential launch of ITCA 650 in 2017, Graves said in a Reuters interview last fall, adding that at the time he expected ITCA 650's regulatory submission in the first half of this year. However, in that interview, he said can see the company going public "at some point."

"We hope when we do that we will have launched our first medicine and we have multiple exciting products coming through in the pipeline," he told Reuters.

Graves' influence isn't limited to his market maneuvering and venture deal execution, though. Intarcia's success to date may have inspired other companies to get involved in delivery device partnerships. Otsuka has paired with Proteus Digital Health on an ingestible adherence device, Verily has partnered with Novartis ($NVS) on a "smart" contact lens, and Propeller Health signed on with GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) for an inhaler sensor. Many of those projects have just begun, while Intarcia seemingly is close to market; FierceMedicalDevices predicted in an editorial late last year the trend will likely continue through 2016.

While the prospects seem promising for the young company, one thing that remains to be seen is where Graves will look next for expansion. Intarcia has so far signed an early-stage development deal with Germany's Numab in the field of obesity and autoimmune diseases, and Graves told Reuters he expects to do more in other fields for continued growth.

-- Eric Sagonowsky (email | Twitter)

For more:
Devices and diagnostics become more integral to the biopharma biz
Intarcia's diabetes-treating implant tops Januvia in a head-to-head test

Kurt Graves - Intarcia
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