Almost a year ago now, Martin Shrekli was fired as CEO by the board at Retrophin, a biotech firm he had founded a couple of years before. It’s a long story, and according to Adam Feuerstein (among many others), Shrekli just did not have the management skill set to get the job done. It’s water under the bridge at this point, but at the very least the entire affair could be taken as a warning for senior executives to always keep a level head and not try to explain your decisions on social media.
Shrekli has moved on from the Retrophin fiasco, and has hopefully learned a few lessons he can apply in managing his new company Turing Pharmaceuticals, which just completed a $90 million Series A funding round this week.
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More on Turing Pharmaceuticals
The funding was led by founder and CEO Martin Shkreli, and according to the Monday press release, included several other “preeminent institutional equity investors.” Turing also took on some senior secured debt.
Analysts note that Shkreli appears to be shaping Turing much as he did Retrophin, in that the biotech startup will use in-licensed products to generate revenue over the short term while developing new, experimental drugs to treat rare diseases.
Turing was formed a few months ago as a part of a $3 million licensing deal with Retrophin that involved the acquisition of nasal spray formulations of oxytocin and ketamine, and another drug called mecamylamine. Shkreli pujt together the deals for these compounds while at Retrophin, but the new execs that run the operation now called them “non-core assets” and decided to dispose of them.
Of note, mecamylamine has been approved by the FDA to treat some cases of hypertension. The oxytocin nasal spray is a drug Novartis developed for mothers with problems breastfeeding, but then pulled the treatment after minimal sales. It looks like Turing is continuing the modus operandi at Retrophin of reintroducing a drug and then testing it for a variety of other conditions. The startup is also planning to put the ketamine nasal spray into clinical trials for several different mood disorders.
On Monday, Turing spent a good chunk of its new-found wealth when it paid Impax Laboratories $55 million for the U.S. rights to pyrimethamine (Daraprim), a currently marketed drug for the treatment of a parasitic infection called toxoplasmosis and certain types of malaria.
The biotech startup also mentions two in-house drug candidates (TUR-003 and TUR-004) on its website as potential rare disease treatment candidates, but no other specifics are provided.
Statement from Turing Pharma founder Martin Shrekli
“We are very happy with the institutional interest in our first capital raise. It’s a great reflection on our business model and the collective track record of our leadership team developing breakthrough treatments for serious diseases,” Shkreli said in the statement. “We plan to accelerate clinical trials for several treatments and are pleased to announce an immediate addition to our portfolio,” he added. “We look forward to the continued execution of our plan to bring new treatments for serious diseases to patients, helping us maximize shareholder value.”
Shrekli is “hyping” the new company on Twitter- as always caveat emptor