In 2002, while doing research into the emerging field of targeted protein therapeutics, one of our Partners became aware of an exciting technology developed jointly at the University of Victoria in British Columbia and John Hopkins University in Maryland. This technology utilizes modified proteins engineered from the naturally occurring bacterial toxin, Aerolysin, to target and kill tumour cells while leaving adjacent healthy cells and tissues intact.
After meeting with company founder and Chief Scientific Officer, Dr. Tom Buckley, to understand the science and its product opportunities, we engaged Dr. Glenn Bubley, Director of Genitourinary Oncology at Harvard Medical School, to assess the technology and provide a due diligence report. Dr. Bubley’s assessment was positive, in fact, sufficiently so that he became a member of the company’s Scientific Advisory Board.
We were convinced that this technology represented a promising new targeted approach for the treatment of cancer; so Advantage set about to assist Dr. Buckley in building a company around his promising science. First, we incorporated Protox Therapeutics and recruited Advantagel Mentor, Tazdin Esmail, to serve as Chief Executive Officer of the company. Mr. Esmail had previously been the Chairman & CEO of Forbes Medi-Tech, a TSX and NASDAQ listed company. We then fleshed out the board of directors, appointing Advantage CEO, Frank Holler, as Chairman and adding other Advantage with significant life science industry experience including Jim Heppell, Dr. Don Rix and Dr. Avtar Dhillon.
From these early beginnings, Lions Capital partners and mentors have been involved in virtually every aspect of the company’s growth from start-up to its position today as one of the world’s leading companies in the field of targeted protein therapeutics. Mentoring activities included:
• Assisting the company in completing its initial public offering on the TSX Venture exchange in July, 2004. This transaction was an innovative roll up of three capital pool companies combined with a reverse merger and concurrent financing.
• Negotiating the exclusive license agreement with John Hopkins University and the University of Victoria granting Protox worldwide rights to commercialize the modified Aerolysin protein for the treatment of prostate cancer.
• Bringing Dr. Fahar Merchant into the company in 2005 as Vice President, Business Development. Fahar has spent his entire career in the development and commercialization of targeted protein therapies and was a founder and CEO of Avicenna Medica which was sold to KS Biomedix in 2001. Dr. Merchant subsequently became President & CEO of Protox in 2006.
• Assisting and leading multiple financings for the company. Over the period 2004 to 2010, Protox has raised a total of $40 million of new capital, including investments totaling $9 million by Advantage funds and its principals.
Protox continues to be actively mentored by Advantage fund managers and Mentors and is continuing to achieve significant milestones. In 2006, the company dosed its first patients in a Phase 1 clinical study of prostate cancer. Today, Protox has completed four Phase 2 studies in BPH, prostate cancer and brain cancers, the company has graduated to the TSX main board, and enjoys a reputation as one of the leading, and most innovative, companies in its field worldwide.