Bonding with BIND Biosciences’s New CEO Scott Minick
[Clarified and Corrected---7:30 AM, 01/15/10] Scott Minick made his official debut as CEO of BIND Biosciences Monday at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco, which makes for one of the most frenetic weeks of the year for biotech chiefs. The Cambridge, MA-based startup also made some news this week with the announcement of an $11 million Series C round of venture capital led by wealthy businessman and philanthropist David Koch.
Despite the crazy schedule at JP Morgan, Minick was pleased with the progress his Cambridge, MA-based startup was making in talks with pharmaceutical companies at the major biotech meeting. The firm has an attractive offering for large drug companies: nanoparticles that have the potential to deliver drugs to specific tissues in the body while significantly reducing the side effects of the compounds they carry. The value of the firm’s sciences was plenty to convince Minick to invest in the startup in 2007 as a managing partner at ARCH Venture Partners, he said, and it also influenced his recent decision to end his 11-year tenure at the venture firm to become BIND’s full-time CEO.
Minick’s road to the CEO post at the startup dates back to before he became a venture capitalist. He was president and chief operating officer of the California biotech Sequus Pharmaceuticals (Liposome Technology), which developed and in 1995 won FDA approval of a cancer drug called liposomal doxorubicin (Doxil). The treatment encases cancer drugs in molecules known as liposomes, which are used to home in on tumor cells and deliver the drugs before they are filtered through a patient’s kidneys. And the drug’s use of liposomes was an early-stage version of part of BIND’s science, which involves the use of liposomes on the outside of drug particles to help them attach to specific cell types.
“I had a lot of experience in doing precisely what BIND is looking to do, but with an entirely different and much more powerful technology [than Sequus's],” Minick said. “This space has always been one that I’ve been interested in and followed closely. And I had looked for an investment to make [in this field] but just could not find the right technology platforms until a couple of years ago, when I met the Bind team.”
Minick became an unofficial interim CEO at BIND about four months ago, when previous chief executive Glenn Batchelder’s tenure as chief executive ended. (He declined to comment on the circumstances around Batchelder’s departure from the company.) The board of directors identified some great candidates when it searched for a permanent chief executive, he said, but they decided that they liked the direction that Minick was leading the firm. That course is aimed at the firm’s first human clinical trial.
In the second half of 2010, the startup plans to begin a Phase I clinical trial of its lead nanoparticle drug, dubbed BIND-014, for treating solid tumors. The treatment is a polymer nanoparticle loaded with a well-known chemotherapy drug called docetaxel, which registered 2008 revenue of $2.9 billion for French drug giant Sanofi-Aventis. The patents on the drug begin to expire later this year, after which it will begin to be fair game for generic rivals. But BIND wants to improve, not copy, the therapy.
Bind’s nanoparticles—which were invented by founders Bob Langer, the renowned MIT bioengineer and entrepreneur, and Omid Farokhzad, a Harvard Medical School associate professor based at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston—are designed to deliver high concentrations of drugs to diseased tissues while minimizing the amount that circulates through the rest of the body. This approach has the potential to reduce the side effects of drugs. (Here’s a link to the company’s explanation of its technology.) [Correction: Farokhzah is an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, not an assistant professor as was initially reported in this story.]
The company is focused on developing treatments for cancer, cardiovascular disease, and inflammatory ailments. The firm has also proved in lab experiments that its nanoparticles can carry nucleic acids such as RNA-interference (RNAi) therapies, which hold tremendous promise to turn off disease-causing genes yet are tricky to deliver to tissues deep in the body. Minick declined to forecast his company’s future in the RNAi field, in which companies such as Cambridge, MA-based Alnylam Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:ALNY) has sought out small firms and academic with drug-delivery expertise to form partnership and other collaborations.
On the investor front, Minick said that the addition of Koch, the executive vice president and a board member at multi-industry conglomerate Koch Industries, to the syndicate that is backing BIND, adds someone with business expertise and strong contacts in the cancer research community. Koch is the namesake of the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT. (His investment was made through his personal investment firm, DHK Investment.) BIND’s other investors are the founding backers Flagship Ventures and Polaris Venture Partners, ARCH, and nanotechnology-focused venture firm NanoDimension. The startup has now raised $29.5 million in venture financing. [Clarification: This paragraph was changed to add ARCH among the list of backers in the company. This change was made for the sake of clarity, as ARCH was noted as an investor earlier in this story.]