San Diego’s MediciNova Nears Turning Point with Lead Drug for Asthma

Xconomy San Diego — 

[Corrected 5/7/12, 5:10 pm. See below.] When Yuichi Iwaki started MediciNova in 2000, he says many mid-size pharmaceutical companies in Japan had concluded it was just too difficult to conduct their own clinical trials in the United States. So MediciNova was born of a kind of Japanese pragmatism.

“Mid-size Japanese companies did not have the financial resources,” Iwaki tells me. “If they have compound, they did not know how to do business in the U.S. That’s the reason I was able to in-license tremendous compounds for minimal payment.”

In the 12 years since MediciNova set down its roots in San Diego, the biopharmaceutical startup has licensed eight compounds (seven from Japanese pharmas and one from the U.K.), raised more than $280 million, and become a public company (NASDAQ: MNOV), with trading on the Nasdaq global market and Japan’s Osaka Securities Exchange.

“In the past seven and a half years, we’ve spent $270 million to get to this level,” says Iwaki, who also is a professor at the University of Southern California School of Medicine and director of USC’s Transplantation Immunology and Immunogenetic Laboratory. “It’s not an easy path, but we believe we are getting closer to the goal.”

Yuichi Iwaki

Iwaki, a Japanese-trained surgeon who came to the United States in the 1980s, is particularly hopeful about MediciNova’s lead drug candidate, bedoradrine sulfate, a compound licensed from Japan’s Kissei Pharmaceutical for use in the United States as an intravenous treatment for treating acute asthma attacks.

MediciNova says its drug has a key advantage over the current standard of care in U.S. emergency rooms, which typically use an inhaled drug like albuterol. An asthma patient’s constricted airways can limit the effectiveness of aerosol drugs, which creates some uncertainty over how much of a given drug has been absorbed. Because bedoradrine is delivered … Next Page »

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