Early Pharma Partnership Proves Key to Armgo’s Startup Success

12/22/11Follow @arleneweintraub

On February 1, Armgo Pharma CEO Sapan Shah will join Aisling Capital’s Dennis Purcell on stage at Xconomy’s first big New York conference to tell the inside story of how Aisling turned a Columbia University discovery into a promising biotech company. No doubt much of the discussion will revolve around a French pharmaceutical company called Servier, which Shah says was a key player in Armgo’s birth. “Armgo was formed both out of an academic lab and a Big Pharma partnership, which is a unique situation,” he says.

Shah and Purcell will pass along the wisdom they’ve gained from Armgo’s evolution at Xconomy Forum: New York’s Venture Emergence, a half-day event featuring some of New York’s most successful venture capitalists and entrepreneurs. Although the event will focus largely on technology startups—with presentations from NYC successes like Gilt Groupe, bitly, and Simulmedia—it will also spotlight biotech as an important part of the city’s bustling venture scene. It’s only fitting: New York leaders have singled out biotech as one of the industries that’s vital to the city’s economic future.

The story of Armgo began in the lab of cardiologist Andrew Marks, chairman of the physiology department and director of the Wu Center for Molecular Cardiology at Columbia University Medical Center. Marks developed a new class of molecules called rycals, which are designed to work on calcium channels in the body. In chronic heart failure—Armgo’s lead pursuit—certain calcium channels become leaky, causing the heart muscle to weaken. Rycals are designed to plug those leaks.

If Armgo can prove rycals work, the company could pioneer an entirely new way to treat heart disease—by getting at the very root of the problem rather than simply treating symptoms. “Most drugs [for chronic heart failure] don’t address the underlying disease,” Shah says. “They reduce the load on … Next Page »

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