Concert Pharmaceuticals climbed the charts of the Boston area’s hottest biotechs last year when it revealed an incentive-laden deal with the drug giant GlaxoSmithKline potentially worth more than $1 billion. Roger Tung, the CEO of Concert, met with me last week at the biotech startup’s Lexington, MA, headquarters and talked about the work his firm is doing to earn as much of that $1 billion from London-based Glaxo (NYSE:GSK) as it can.
Tung is a top drug chemist. He invented Concert’s core technology, which the firm has used to swap certain hydrogen atoms in approved drugs with deuterium atoms to make the drugs potentially last longer and be safer without changing the way they combat diseases. And while he was an executive at Cambridge, MA-based Vertex Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:VRTX), he helped invent the technology used to create telaprevir, Vertex’s experimental hepatitis C drug that many believe could become a blockbuster product.
Concert, founded in 2006, has reached a point where it needs to generate additional data on how its drugs impact humans. Tung says that the Big Pharma players tell his firm that they are more interested in clinical assets—meaning drugs that have entered human trials—than in broad technology platforms like deuterium chemistry alone. The challenge there for Concert is that Glaxo has locked up most of the startup’s lead compounds (though none of those in the Glaxo deal have advanced beyond Phase I). And potential partners haven’t been as interested in Concert’s Phase I compound called CTP-347, the only clinical asset in its pipeline that isn’t part of the Glaxo deal, as its other product candidates, Tung says.
So Concert is working on a new strategy to generate more human data on its experimental compounds. “One of the things that is a significant initiative for us is that we think there may be ways of accelerating getting initial human data with our compounds, perhaps in a … Next Page »