Who Needs a CEO? Lycera Strikes Deal with Pharma Giant Merck

Xconomy Detroit/Ann Arbor — 

Lycera founder and chief scientific officer Gary Glick is feeling pretty good these days. And who can blame him?

Just last fall, CEO Bill Sibold left the Plymouth, MI-based drug startup after less than a year on the job. That’s usually not a good sign.

Six months later, Lycera still doesn’t have a CEO. But that hardly seems to matter. Last month, the journal Science Translational Medicine published a Lycera study that validated its key cellular bioenergetics technology to treat autoimmune diseases.

And now this: Lycera announced today that it will collaborate with drug giant Merck to develop its Th17 drug program, a deal that includes $12 million in upfront cash, research funding, and clinical and regulatory milestone payments worth up to $295 million.

In a phone interview, Glick, a professor at the University of Michigan, says the company wants to find the right CEO but is in no particulary hurry.

“We’re executing quite well,” says Glick, with a strong hint of satisfaction in his voice. “We’re not in a rush to fill the position.”

The Merck deal represents a major milestone for the company, Glick says, because “it really validates the technology and team we’ve put together over the last 18 months…I’m really, really excited.”

Lycera’s cellular bioenergetics technology is actually more developed than Th17. Later this year, the company plans its first clinical trial of a drug designed to disrupt the ability of diseased white blood cells known to feed itself.

However, Th17 program is what caught the eye of Big Pharma because … Next Page »

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