Lee Brettman believes in the power of pharmaceutical repositioning. Equally important, investors believe in him.
Brettman, president and CEO of Dynogen Pharmaceuticals Inc., recently raised $50 million in an oversubscribed round of Series B funding.
Brettman’s initial repositioning effort involved Campath, a drug that Burroughs Wellcome had unsuccessfully tested for rheumatoid arthritis and related indications. Brettman was serving as chief medical officer for Cambridge, Mass.-based LeukoSite Inc., and said that Campath could help treat a common form of adult leukemia called chronic lymphocytic leukemia. LeukoSite licensed the drug in May 1997, agreed to a joint development deal with Ilex Oncology Inc. and went public just three months later.
As Campath neared FDA approval in the fall of 2000, Millennium Pharmaceuticals Inc. acquired LeukoSite for over $550 million. Brettman stayed with Millennium, and helped push Campath to market the following summer. It was Millennium’s first-ever commercialization, and it cashed in quickly by selling its 50% stake in Campath to partner Ilex for $128 million.
Earlier this year, Genzyme Corp. agreed to acquire Ilex for around $1 billion in stock, with market analysts noting that Campath was the deal’s crown jewel.
Brettman left Millennium shortly after the Campath sale to Ilex, and signed on as an entrepreneur-in-residence with Oxford BioScience Partners. In 2002, he went back to his repositioning roots by founding Dynogen, which received $13.25 million in Series A funding from Oxford, HealthCare Ventures and A.M. Pappas & Associates.
Boston-based Dynogen is not focused on the VC hotspot of oncology, but rather on genitourinary (GU) and gastrointestinal (GI) problems like overactive bladder (OAB) and irritable bowel syndromes. The company discovered its first drug internally – an OAB-targeted candidate (DDP200) that should enter Phase IIa clinical trials within a few weeks – but has not built a significant discovery platform.
Instead, it will license drugs from other companies that were originally targeted for non-GU or non-GI indications. For example, Dynogen is preparing to file an investigational drug application for an irritable bowel candidate (DDP225) that Mitsubishi Corp. originally had developed to combat depression.
In addition to its Campath-style repositioning, the company also is putting a different spin on the entire concept of GU and GI pharmaceuticals. The typical OAB drug targets the bladder’s smooth muscle, but Dynogen is aiming at neurological pathways that control GU and GI tract functions.
The company plans to roll out one new candidate in each of the next three years.
“We went out looking for $25 million to $30 million, but decided to step up to the plate when we realized that we had generated such a tremendous amount of interest,” says Robert Lorette, chief business officer and senior vice president of Dynogen.
Schroder Ventures Life Sciences led the deal, and was joined by Abingworth Management Ltd., Atlas Venture, Medica Venture Partners and Wellcome Trust.
Kate Bingham, a general partner with Schroder Ventures and onetime LeukoSite board member, and Michael Bingham, a director with Abingworth, have joined the Dynogen board in conjunction with the financing.
Bingham acknowledges that Dynogen received far more capital than it desired, but does not believe that the company is over-capitalized in the vein of late 1990s dotcom plays. “I think the way the transaction has been structured addresses that, because they are very targeted at clinical decision points,” she explains. “It takes a lot of money to develop these programs.”