Retrophin, Headed by Controversial Hedge Fund Chief, Raises $4M

5/7/12Follow @arleneweintraub

New York-based biotech company Retrophin announced this morning that it has completed a $4 million Series A round led by MSMB Capital, a life sciences hedge fund based in New York. Both MSMB and Retrophin are managed by Martin Shkreli (pictured at right), a 29-year-old finance whiz and biology fanatic who spent several years investing in biotech companies before deciding to start his own.

Retrophin plans to use the funds to advance its pipeline of drugs to treat rare diseases, including RE-021 for Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), and RE-001 for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Retrophin acquired the FSGS compound from San Diego-based Ligand Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: LGND) earlier this year and is now preparing to enroll patients in a clinical trial.

Shkreli is the CEO of Retrophin, but he’s probably better known as the manager of MSMB. In that role, he has taken a vocal stand against a number of life sciences companies that he believes are not being managed properly, and he has even encouraged investors to bet the share prices of those firms would drop by “shorting” their stocks. His targets have ranged from small players like Cytori (NASDAQ: CYTX) and MannKind (NASDAQ: MKND) all the way up to giants like Pfizer (NYSE: PFE). Last summer, MSMB offered to buy troubled Lexington, MA-based AMAG (NASDAQ: AMAG) then led an effort to overthrow the board and have CEO Brian Pereira ousted. (Pereira later stepped down.)

Shkreli told Xconomy earlier this year that he felt he could make more of a difference to the world of life sciences by actually developing drugs himself, which is what inspired him to start Retrophin. He is being advised by some of the pharmaceutical industry’s best-known executives, including Fred Hassan, the former Schering-Plough CEO, and Brent Saunders, CEO of Bausch & Lomb. In terms of funding the company going forward, Shkreli says he would consider merging with a public company that already has a strong drug-development engine.

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