Clinical Data’s Billionaire Chairman a Major Player in Firm’s Newly FDA-Approved Antidepressant
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52.5 percent of Clinical Data’s common stock as of September 30, according to the company. And his personal fortune presumably shot up yesterday as the firm’s market value grew from $450 million to $750 million. FMR, the Boston-based company that owns Fidelity Investments and whose chairman is the billionaire Edward “Ned” Johnson III, is another major Clinical Data shareholder, controlling about 15 percent of its stock as of a November 10 regulatory filing.
Kirk was not available to comment for this article as of this morning.
To hear Fromkin tell it, Kirk deserves the boost he got to his net worth yesterday. Kirk pushed the company to buy New Haven, CT-based Genaissance Pharmaceuticals, which had been exploring the use of biomarkers in drug development, in 2005, Fromkin says. Vilazodone, a key asset acquired through the Genaissance buyout, came from Germany’s Merck KGaA. German Merck had stopped developing the drug—which is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor like paroxetine (Paxil) and citalopram (Celexa) but also targets a receptor involved in anxiety—because it did not outperform placebo in an earlier clinical trial. Yet Clinical Data’s chief medical officer, Carol Reed, later met with the FDA and learned how the drug could be advanced into late-stage clinical trials, Fromkin says. Clinical Data says that it now expects to begin U.S. sales of the antidepressant in the second fiscal quarter of this year under the brand name “Viibryd.”
Kirk also recruited Fromkin to Clinical Data, initially to consult on the company’s purchase of Genaissance. Fromkin, who joined the company in 2005, became its CEO in May 2006. Fromkin says that he met Kirk in 1996 when he was leading corporate development for Medco Health (then a unit of Merck & Co.) and Medco was interested in buying Kirk’s firm General Injectables & Vaccines. Though Medco never bought Kirk’s firm, Fromkin and Kirk kept in touch.
While Clinical Data has found multiple ways to raise cash to develop vilazodone over the years, Kirk came through as a major source of funds during the driest days for financing biotech companies in late-2008 and 2009. In September 2008, when the company was in the final stages of developing the antidepressant and financial powerhouses like Lehman Brothers were tanking, Kirk and his affiliated entities invested … Next Page »