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Frazier Enlists Three Laguna Pharma Execs to Scout for New Drugs

Xconomy San Diego — 

Like a phoenix rising from the shutdown of San Diego’s Laguna Pharmaceuticals, former Laguna CEO Bob Baltera and two other ex-Laguna executives are now roosting under the wing of Menlo Park, CA-based Frazier Healthcare Partners as Hawkeye Therapeutics.

Baltera, former Laguna CMO Howard Dittrich, and former Laguna chief business development officer Brian Farmer officially joined the venture firm’s team as entrepreneurs-in-residence, according to a recent statement from Frazier.

But the trio will work as scouts for San Diego-based Hawkeye, a “search company” focused on in-licensing and developing promising drug candidates, Baltera told me by phone late Monday during a break at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco. “We’re looking for interesting assets in clinic that we can take in, and partner, and develop some value around,” Baltera said.

Jamie Topper

Jamie Topper

James “Jamie” Topper, Frazier’s managing general partner, approached them with the idea a few weeks after Laguna’s shutdown, Baltera said. Frazier and Topper were investors in Laguna, he added.

Before joining Laguna early last year, Baltera was the CEO of Amira Pharmaceuticals, which was acquired in 2011 by Bristol-Myers Squibb for $325 million upfront and $150 million in future milestones.

Baltera also held numerous management positions at Amgen, including vice president of corporate and contract manufacturing. Dittrich, a cardiologist with experience in clinical research and regulatory affairs, has co-founded several companies, including NovaCardia, which was acquired by Merck for $350 million in 2007. Before joining Laguna, Farmer was vice president of corporate development and operations at Sequel Pharmaceuticals, and led corporate development at NovaCardia.