Compassionate Capitalism

In the final feature of Big4Bio’s Company to Watch program, we spoke with Venatorx Pharmaceuticals’ board member, Vincent Milano, about why he thinks the company is worth watching. Milano has more than 25 years of experience in biotechnology, first at ViroPharma, which was acquired by Shire, and currently as CEO of Idera Pharmaceuticals.

Company to Watch – Venatorx Pharmaceuticals

by Marie Daghlian

Vincent Milano enjoyed working with Chris Burns and Dan Pevear — two of the founders of Venatorx — when all of them were at ViroPharma, so when Chris Burns asked Vin to join Venatorx as an independent board member, Vin said yes. Venatorx’s founders, including Luigi Xerri, were passionate about trying to change the landscape on resistant bacterial infections, and Vin was confident that they could get there.

Venatorx Board of Directors member Vincent Milano, CEO of Idera Pharmaceuticals

Eleven years later, “it’s a very different company,” says Milano, “with lots of employees, lots of programs, and lots of government funding.” Venatorx has successfully gone from scratch to moving three in-house programs into clinical development and is looking to evolve into a commercial-stage company.

Venatorx has a unique business model, one that separates it from others. It has taken advantage of available government money for anti-infective research to support its robust and innovative R&D engine and pipeline with very little investor capital, in an industry known to be incredibly capital intensive.

“Venatorx’s model totally breaks that mold because investors don’t own a majority of the company,” says Milano. “That’s incredibly unique. Plus, the ability to be that capital efficient and, frankly, the science to win all those grants and contracts, means the science must be very good. When you combine the technical quality with a model of leveraging government funding, Venatorx’s management has been able to build the kind of company they want without being beholden to others.”

Venatorx still faces the challenge of distinguishing itself from the many publicly-traded antibiotic companies that have not done well in recent years. Milano thinks the company’s approach and the broad-spectrum focus of its lead antibiotic, its discovery engine for developing novel pathogen targeting compounds, and the high-potential of key legislation moving through Congress that could reduce development risk and change the ecosystem for antibiotics, are all in the company’s favor.

“Still, for the long-term viability of this sector, we need a product success story,” Milano says. “We need good data that the product gets used in the marketplace and patients have positive outcomes. That’s a longer journey but also the ultimate victory: A product that actually does well in the marketplace.”

And he thinks Venatorx can be among the first to get there. “We are going to have a product that can generate revenue and ultimately profits,” Milano says. “I like to use the phrase ‘compassionate capitalism.’ We care mostly about saving people’s lives and helping people and we can still make money along the way. I think Venatorx is poised to be in that position because their assets are different from what is out there.”

BEGINNING OF SERIES: The Drug Hunter Flying Under the Radar

This is part of the Big4Bio Company to Watch program for May 2021: Venatorx Pharmaceuticals.
For more information on the series, click here.