Early Pharma Partnership Proves Key to Armgo’s Startup Success

12/22/11Follow @arleneweintraub

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the heart, but that doesn’t restore the ability of the heart muscle to contract.” Armgo’s goal is to prove that its lead compound—currently in Phase 2 trials in heart failure and arrhythmias—can restore normal heart function.

On March 22, 2006, Armgo launched with an exclusive license from Columbia to develop Marks’ discoveries. On the same day, Servier signed a development deal with Armgo that gave the French firm exclusive rights to market any resulting drug outside the U.S. and Japan. Shortly thereafter, Aisling made a $3.5 million investment in Armgo, according to VentureDeal.

The financial terms of the Servier deal were not disclosed, but Shah says the arrangement has been vital to Armgo’s security. “We have not had to raise money since the inception of the company,” he says. “Servier provides non-dilutive financing that allows us to maintain operations.”

Aisling’s senior managing partner Dennis Purcell adds that Servier’s involvement played a major role in his firm’s decision to invest in Armgo. “Cardiovascular disease is a very big category,” he says. “The deal with Servier enabled us to put our arms around what the development costs were going to be and not to have it open-ended.”

Armgo aims to establish a plan for late-stage development in heart disease by the end of 2012, Shah says. Rycals may also prove useful in other conditions where regulating calcium is important, Shah says, such as muscular dystrophy and other musculoskeletal disorders. Should Armgo decide to pursue those diseases, the company may look for other partners to help fund development, he says.

Prior to joining Armgo in April, Shah was the CEO of the U.S. division of Shionogi, a Japanese pharmaceutical company. He was based in suburban New Jersey and was thrilled to be offered an opportunity at Armgo, which is headquartered nearby in Tarrytown, NY. Shah says he’s excited to see the cluster of biotech companies forming in the New York area. “We have strong ties to New York because our venture group is here and our scientific founder is at Columbia,” he says. “From a talent perspective, New York and New Jersey are great. With all the consolidation in large pharma on the R&D side, there are quite a few really good scientists around.”

To hear more from Shah and Purcell about Armgo’s startup experiences, register now for Xconomy Forum: New York’s Venture Emergence. The event will take place at the Apella Event Space at Alexandria Center for Life Science from 2 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on February 1. You can find more information—plus a great holiday discount through January 3—by clicking here. We hope you join Xconomy for this exciting review of New York’s startup scene.

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