By the end of this year or early next year, San Diego-based Anadys Pharmaceuticals expects to move its first compound into the clinic, and has already established deals with Aventis, Lilly, and Pharmacia. Not bad for a genomics-based biopharmaceutical firm that was founded in May 2000.
The secret, according to David Nelson, who joined Anadys’ corporate development team after running a genomics group at Aurora Biosciences, is in its master plan. And by master, he really means cofounder Stelios Papadopoulos, who pieced together the company from existing technology and other companies. “He was looking to try to build what he thought was going to be a successful model company. … His feeling was that [selling] technology was not going to be the answer,” Nelson says. Technologies, he explains, become “commoditized” too easily; a lasting company needed to have an engine that it could pump compounds through.
For the medicinal chemistry component of the company, Papadopoulos turned to a San Diego company called Asklipios, named after the Greek god of medicine and healing. Then he and cofounder Kleanthis Xanthopoulos checked around for a technology they could call their own. “The first thought was to go to Europe — there’s a tremendous amount of talent but it’s undercommoditized,” Nelson says. Working with EMBL to spin out a technology identifying RNA as a drug target, “we created a wholly owned subsidiary basically in the parking lot of EMBL,” Nelson says.
Meanwhile, a company called Scriptgen Pharmaceuticals was having trouble marketing its high-throughput screening technology, which nicely folded into what the entity-about-to-be Anadys was trying to do. The last puzzle piece, Nelson says, came in the form of Devron Averett, who had more than 25 years of experience in big pharma and was able to take six compounds with him when he left his last post. Averett headed to Papadopoulos’ venture, bringing his compounds along — including the two that Anadys is shepherding toward clinical trials, both of which are targeted at hepatitis C. Backed by $24.5 million brought in during a funding round in late 2000, Anadys is using proteomics technologies to examine RNA targets, and bioinformatics and expression studies using “knockdown” (reducing expression instead of completely knocking out a gene) methods for antibacterials and antivirals, according to Nelson.
Anadys got its name at a bar in Heidelberg, Germany, after Papadopoulos and Xanthopoulos met with EMBL folks: it derives from the Greek words meaning “from East to West.”
— Meredith Salisbury