Zalicus, Formerly the Bicoastal Biotech CombinatoRx, Seeks New Identity with Name Fit for a Warrior

9/20/10

Mark Corrigan, the chief executive of the biotech Zalicus (NASDAQ:ZLCS), has been shuttling back and fourth from Boston to New York this week as part of the Cambridge, MA-based firm’s effort to gain greater visibility on Wall Street. In fact, last Friday he was due to ring the closing bell at the NASDAQ stock market in Times Square.

Founded in 2000, the company, known for most of its history as CombinatoRx, has burned through more than $230 million to develop its drugs. It was one of the high-flyers in the local biotech scene until its lead treatment for arthritis faltered in a mid-stage clinical trial two years ago. Now the company, with a new name and a new FDA-approved drug, is out to reinvent its image in the investment community.

Last week the company changed its name from CombinatoRx to Zalicus (and no, the firm didn’t name itself after Zalicus, the armored character from the video game World of Warcraft). While name changes aren’t typically news, this company’s renaming deserves special attention because it relates to the December 2009 merger of CombinatoRx and Vancouver BC-based Neuromed Pharmaceuticals. By acquiring Neuromed, the new company obtained a long-lasting opioid pain reliever (Exalgo) that has been available on the U.S. market since April. It’s the first marketed product for Zalicus, and it changes the complexion of the company quite a bit.

Before the merger with Neuromed, Zalicus’s business was built entirely on its system that seeks synergistic combinations of compounds to form new treatments for diseases. That technology has helped the firm gain its research and development deals with the Swiss drug maker Novartis (NYSE:NVS) and Thousand Oaks, CA-based biotech giant Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN). Neuromed, like the name used to suggest, developed neurological drugs like the long-lasting opioid pain reliever. The product (Exalgo) is marketed by health products giant Covidien (NYSE:COV). Zalicus has also chosen to maintain a research operation in Vancouver that is focused on discovering drugs that block proteins called calcium channels to treat pain.

Still, the company’s lead clinical candidate is an arthritis treatment called Synavive. It’s a combination of a cardiovascular drug and a corticosteroid that resulted from the firm’s original combinatorial drug-screening technology.

The name change gives the company an excuse to tell its story to investors and regain faith among stock buyers on Wall Street. Investors bolted from the firm’s stock after it reported in October 2008 that … Next Page »

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