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The Pulse of the Pharmaceutical Industry

Pfizer Spins Off Four of Its Best Drug Candidates Into a Startup With $103 Million

Written by: | | Dated: Monday, September 25th, 2017


September 25, 2017
By Mark Terry, Breaking News Staff

Bigger is not always better. And Pfizer’s trying to prove it. The company launched a six-person biotech startup, SpringWorks Therapeutics, with a $103 million Series A financing. Joining Pfizer in funding the company was Bain Capital Life Sciences, Bain Capital Double Impact, OrbiMed and LifeArc, formerly known as MRC Technology

“SpringWorks Therapeutics will pursue the development of medicines across therapeutic areas, focused on diseases where there is an urgent need and the potential for the greatest impact for patients,” said Lara Sullivan, founder and president of SpringWorks Therapeutics and a former vice president at Pfizer, in a statement. “We initially have rights to four very promising experimental therapies and, over time, plan to expand our pipeline by partnering with other life science companies and academic institutions who share in our mission.”

STAT notes that, “This may seem odd in that Pfizer spends literally billions of dollars a year advancing treatments of its own. But the company’s executives say they simply don’t have the resources to advance all the promising compounds that catch their eye—and they believe an independent company with the scrappy ethos of a startup will be in a better position to take on that task.”

“The problem is very simple,” Sullivan told STAT. “There’s too much good science and not enough resources to advance it. If you want to see grown men cry, stop a program for budget reasons, not based on science.”

Although this is a strategy that seems to be gaining steam, as evidenced by Vivek Ramaswamy’s series of biotech startups built on drugs abandoned by big pharma, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily easy to convince a big company to give up four of its pipeline drugs—and pay for the privilege.

John Carroll, with Endpoints News, writes, “’I’ve got a couple of more gray hairs than I did a few years ago,’ Sullivan tells me, when she got started pursing this project. [Freda] Lewis-Hall [Pfizer’s chief medical officer] helped champion the effort, and then they built support among the company’s lawyers, accountants and scientists, who are only too aware that even in a top 10 R&D outfit like Pfizer there are far more development projects than money to fund the work.”

The four compounds SpringWorks is starting with are all clinical phase, three for rare diseases, one for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTDS). They are:

PF-03084014, or nirogacestat, a gamma-secretase inhibitor that the company will take into Phase III for desmoid tumors, a rare, slow-growing non-metastatic tumor of connective tissue.

PF-0325901, an MEK 1/2 inhibitor for a genetic disease NF1, related to neurofibromatosis. It’s completed a Phase I/II trial and will begin a pivotal trial.

PF-054116266, or senicapoc, for hereditary xerocytosis, which is a disease where red blood cells become dehydrated, leading to severe anemia and other potentially serious illnesses.

PF-0445784, an FAAH inhibitor for PTSD.

The company also plans to continue evaluating other drugs that may be under resourced but have high potential.

Daniel Lynch will join the company as executive chairman; Sullivan is founder and president; Stephen Squinto will be acting head of Research & Development and a member of the board; Saqib Islam will be chief financial officer and chief business officer; and L. Mary Smith will be vice president, Clinical Research and Development.



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