By Scott Meacham
Copyright © The Oklahoma Publishing Company
Altheus Therapeutics Inc. is an Oklahoma homegrown example of a startup bioscience company doing drug commercialization right.
The company shows what can come about when the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology, the University of Oklahoma, the state’s bioscience community, angel investors, and i2E combine resources, dollars, and expertise to help a bioscience company with a great technology beat the odds.
Altheus provides novel front-line therapies for treating ulcerative colitis and potentially other inflammatory bowel diseases. The causes of these autoimmune conditions are not known. There is no known cure. The symptoms are chronic and typically require a lifetime of care.
Altheus was founded just six years ago with technology licensed from OU and $3.6 million in venture capital from the Oklahoma Seed Capital Fund and other investors.
Six years can be multiple lifetimes for an iPhone app, but in the world of drug development, it can take many more than half-a-dozen years before a startup even has a drug to test.
Today Altheus has raised nearly $15 million through equity and grants, and is in the final stages of a 120-patient FDA Phase 2 clinical trial. Once the trial concludes and the analysis is complete, Altheus will be on the path (in months not years) to progress to Phase 3, a larger human test. Phase 3 success can lead to market availability.
The FDA regulations for safety and efficacy testing are rigid and stringent. Every company trying to get drug approval is required to follow a similar path; some make it, but most don’t.
What makes Altheus such a standout?
The company’s founder created a unique solution to a debilitating condition. OU agreed to license the technology. The founder connected with senior entrepreneurs, who had prior success in biotechnology startups, and an expert in working with the FDA.
Moving through Phase 2 testing, the firm visited the clinical trial sites to interact personally with doctors and patients and to provide support to the laborious process of recording and gathering clinical data.
As the company met commercialization milestones, Altheus’ public and private sector investors stayed loyal. The company raised a Series B round in February of 2012 and just closed an extension to that round in October. An investment affiliate of the Chickasaw Nation and
It’s a real victory for our state that Oklahoma investors have the appetite and the ability to carry a biotechnology company from scratch through a Phase 2 study of such magnitude.
If you ever think that Oklahoma might not be such a good fit for biotech, the example of Altheus suggests you think again.
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.
Did You Know? Only five in 5,000 of the drugs that begin preclinical testing ever make it to human testing. SOURCE: California Biomedical Research Association