Former CEO Alexis Borisy Voices Mixed Feelings on CombinatoRx Saga

7/6/09

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get the trajectory positive again, as well as to do a transaction to build for the long term.”

A key to the merger with Neuromed, Borisy notes, is that it adds resources to further develop CombinatoRx’ experimental drugs and discovery platform. As I wrote in last week’s piece about the planned merger, Neuromed recently sold marketing rights to its pain treatment to Mallinckrodt, a subsidiary of Irish medical products giant Covidien, which has promised to pay up to $40 million to Neuromed upon approval of the drug as well as tiered royalties on sales of the product. And that could be a nice revenue stream for CombinatoRx if the drug is approved and the merger goes through.

Not surprisingly, Borisy is still a big believer in CombinatoRx’ discovery platform. The platform uses computer-screening methods to find novel treatments based on combinations of existing pharmaceutical compounds. Though the firm’s treatment Synavive—which combined a generic steroid, prednisolone, with dipyridamole, an anti-blood clotting drug—fell short in clinical trials, the company has other experimental products in its pipeline such as CRx-401 for Type 2 diabetes and CRx-197 for dermatological conditions. In fact, the firm reported in May that CRx-401 showed in a mid-stage clinical trial that it was better than an existing therapy in helping diabetics control their blood sugar. In a small vote of confidence in the discovery technology, Swiss drug giant Novartis agreed to pay CombinatoRx an upfront fee of $4 million in a deal to tap CombinatoRx’ discovery technology to find combination treatments for cancer.

Robert Forrester, who had been chief financial officer of CombinatoRx since 2004, is now serving as interim CEO of the company while the merger is being finalized.

Borisy, who left his doctoral studies in chemistry to launch CombinatoRx in 2000, says he sees his stepping down from his post at the company as an opportunity to pursue another entrepreneurial endeavor—but he’s not ready specify exactly what that next move will be. Meantime, he is serving as chairman of Forma Therapeutics, a Cambridge, MA-based startup that is pursuing new treatments for cancer and resistant infections. (Borisy is also not leaving CombinatoRx empty handed; his severance package includes a lump sum payout of $932,500, two years of free health coverage, and a separate payment of $150,000 as part of a bonus agreement, according to a regulatory filing.)

It’s clear that the former CEO of CombinatoRx has mixed feelings about his departure. “I’ve been itching to do this for a while,” he says. “At the same time there’s an element of sadness because CombinatoRx has been my baby.”

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