“I knew I could trust Gordon’s judgment. His tremendous depth of experience in the pharmaceutical industry drew me to consult with him on both the scientific and business fundamentals of my proposal. He put the deal under the microscope and helped refine my focus.”
— Nicholas Dean, Ph.D., Co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer, Excaliard Pharmaceuticals
It was the perspicacity of team members J. Gordon Foulkes and Niall O’Donnell in shepherding pharmaceuticals from gene discovery to clinical trials that attracted entrepreneur Nicholas Dean, Ph.D., to partnering with RiverVest. The three met through ‘BioBrits’, a networking community in San Diego. After building the Excaliard story and seeding the Company’s early endeavors, RiverVest co-led and syndicated a $15.5 million Series A financing with Alta Partners and Pro-Quest Investments. RiverVest was represented on the Excaliard Board of Directors by Gordon Foulkes initially, then by Niall O’Donnell. The deal was attractive on several levels:
Significant Unmet Medical Need
More than 30 million surgeries are performed annually in the United States, creating a compelling market for therapies that address surgical scars. Skin scarring, a form of fibrosis, is a particularly unwelcome outcome of some 2 million aesthetic procedures and 1.3 million Cesarean sections. In addition to surgery, there are an estimated 500,000 burn incidents each year that result in severe skin scarring.
Drs. Foulkes and O’Donnell worked with Dr. Dean, former vice president and key researcher in the discovery and development of antisense therapeutics at Isis Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (Nasdaq:ISIS), to negotiate a license to use Isis’ antisense technology to treat fibrotic diseases, including skin scarring. Dr. O’Donnell, who had five-years of fibrosis research experience at Johnson & Johnson helped develop the clinical strategy.
Demonstrated Efficacy and Safety
Pre-clinical testing was performed by two of the world’s leading dermatology experts Gregory S. Schultz, Ph.D., professor of OB/GYN and director of the Institute for Wound Research at the University of Florida, and Thomas A. Mustoe, M.D., chief of plastic surgery at Northwestern University. Both doctors are former presidents of the American Wound Healing Society.
Excaliard maintained a pace to begin human proof-of-concept clinical trials in 2009 within 18 months of initial financing.
Excaliard Pharmaceutical, Inc.’s mission is to develop targeted therapeutics for the treatment of dermatological disorders including scarring, as well as other fibrotic diseases. The company has licensed a patented, clinically proven technology with multiple therapeutic opportunities in fibrosis. On the basis of extensive pre-clinical data with this technology, Excaliard anticipates early proof of concept in man.
In November 2011, four years after RiverVest’s seed investment, Excaliard Pharmaeceuticals, Inc. was acquired by Pfizer Inc. The terms of the transaction were not disclosed.