Chris Liang had already forged a compelling profile in drug development when the newly formed Scripps Florida recruited him as head of chemistry back in 2004. Liang, who emigrated from China in 1984 to attend grad school at Princeton, had worked on Sutent early on in his career. He went on to found the first Scripps Florida spinout--Xcovery--with Genzyme founder Sheridan Snyder. And today, Liang put out the word that Xcovery has inked its first big deal for the little biotech with a virtual staff.
Reaching back to his roots in China, Liang has forged close ties with Betta Pharmaceuticals, a Hangzhou-based company which struck a deal with Amgen ($AMGN) last fall to form a joint venture in China responsible for rolling out Vectibix in the Chinese market. After operating largely on a tight budget funded by high net worth individuals, Betta is investing $20 million into the company while gaining Chinese licensing rights to X-396, an ALK-inhibitor that is now in Phase II development for non-small cell lung cancer.
"We presented a poster at ASCO last summer," Liang tells FierceBiotech, which attracted the CMO at Betta, an old friend of his. "He was impressed by the data," adds the CSO, and so they initiated talks about a deal.
There are other ALK-inhibitors on the market for NSCLC. But Liang--who has specialized in kinase inhibitors for years--believes that his small molecule has a better safety profile that can help distinguish it from the competition.
Xcovery--a 2007 Fierce 15 company-- is one of three companies that Liang runs under the umbrella of BioCatalyst International, including Tyrogenex and Xcovery Vision. Last summer Tyrogenex raised $15 million from Brazil's giant EMS S/A. That money is being used for the development of X-82, an early-stage oral VEGFR/PDGFR inhibitor, as a targeted therapeutic for solid tumors and ophthalmological diseases.
Eventually, though, that kind of unconventional financing may have to follow more traditional paths, says Liang.
"We have to change the investment strategy as we grow," he says. And that could eventually mean turning to venture groups for additional funds.
- here's the release
Special Report: 2007 Fierce 15 - Xcovery