Risk-sharing trial ops group Nuvelution debuts with powerhouse board and backers

A few weeks ago, when Clarus Ventures put out the word that it had wrapped a new $500 million biotech fund, the investment group put out word that it plans to put part of that money behind a new model for risk-sharing drug development deals. And today it helped explain what it was talking about, unveiling a lead role in funding a startup, San Francisco-based Nuvelution Pharma, that has an eminent group of Big Pharma veterans on the board as it sets out to ink a few clinical trial deals with the industry.

Clarus joined hands with Novo A/S, the venture arm of the Novo Nordisk ($NVO) group, to back the debut of Nuvelution, which can count on an asset base of close industry connections around the world.

The company plans to put those connections to good use, striking risk-sharing clinical trial deals and committing anywhere from $50 million to $500 million to partner up on product development. Several other companies are already competing for this business, looking to step in and fund and execute studies in exchange for a piece of the marketing action.

Arthur Higgins, the former CEO at Bayer HealthCare, is on the board. He'll be joined by Jeremy Levin, the former Teva ($TEVA) CEO now doing his own startup, Ovid Therapeutics. Chris Viehbacher, the ex-Sanofi ($SNY) CEO and now newly minted globe-trotting life sciences investor, is also stepping on to the board. Paul Sekhri, who worked at both Sanofi and Teva, is now Lycera CEO and a new board member at Nuvelution. And Sanford Zweifach, Nuvelution's founder and CEO, is a longtime biotech investor.

On the operations side Dr. Barry Gertz, former senior VP of global clinical development at Merck ($MRK), and James Cornwall, former VP of corporate development for Quintiles ($Q), have joined Nuvelution as chief physician scientist and chief business officer.

In this sort of business, personal rep goes a long way. And the first order of business at Nuvelution was to make sure it had the right pedigree in place to attract the right client list.

"Our goal is to make our risk-sharing collaboration approach to clinical development an essential tool for pharma and biotech companies to improve their R&D productivity," Zweifach said in a statement. "The individuals involved in Nuvelution bring a unique understanding as to the ideal way to structure these collaborations given their extensive industry experience."

- here's the release