Verus Pharmaceuticals - 2005 Fierce 15 revisited

Verus Pharmaceuticals
Based: San Diego, CA
Founded: 2003

Bottom line: Programs were licensed out, including one deal with Verus' founder. But a big pact with AZ wound up in the courts.

What we said: Verus doesn't have any drugs currently in the pipeline. But it will. Verus currently is all about experienced management and cash. Cam Garner (CEO) and his biotech start-up team landed $98 million in first-round financing ($20 million of that in the form of a loan); money that was delivered by a group of venture capitalists who were willing to bet on their track record. Garner and four other executives at Verus--that includes Verus president Bob Keith and sales and marketing chief Peter Schineller--started Dura Pharmaceuticals, which was bought out by Elan for $1.8 billion in 2000. Garner and others were also part of Excel. Unlike several of the companies on this list, you won't see years of research devoted to brilliant, preclinical lab work. Armed with a big cash coffer, expect this upstart to move swiftly to in-license later stage and approved pediatric drugs that can be put to the test and then pointed at a market. In fact, Keith says the first product is slated to arrive by early July. 

What happened: On September 24, 2007, Verus announced that it had licensed its pediatric asthma programs to AstraZeneca for $310 million, with $30 million of that upfront. Sciele bought out its anaphylaxis franchise. Garner had continued to start new biotech companies. Just last September Zogenix closed a $51 million round. And early in 2008 Garner and a group of executives from Verus started Meritage Pharma with $22.5 million raised in a Series A. Meritage quickly turned around and acquired Verus' pediatric gastrointestinal development program. Included in the transaction: rights to a novel formulation of an existing molecule intended to treat an emerging allergic inflammation condition of the gastrointestinal tract. At that point, Verus and Keith were focused on the AZ deal. But by spring of this year, the collaboration was in deep trouble. Verus filed a $1.3 billion lawsuit against the pharma company and Tika Lakemedel AB , claiming fraud, breach of contract, and conversion.

Verus Pharmaceuticals - 2005 Fierce 15 revisited