ZymoGenetics’ Former Medical Boss Leads Rival Startup, ProFibrix, With Drug For Bleeding

Xconomy Seattle — 

One of the key people who transformed ZymoGenetics from a basic research institute into a more balanced biotech company with both R and D, has set up shop in a rival startup just a few blocks away on Seattle’s Eastlake Avenue. If he plays his cards right, this little company will surpass his former employer, with what he hopes will be an even better treatment to control bleeding.

His name is Jan Öhrström (pronounced Yahn Oar-strum), and he’s the former chief medical officer of Seattle-based ZymoGenetics (NASDAQ: ZGEN), and now the chief operating officer of a company called ProFibrix. The newer company is headquartered in the Netherlands, and when it went looking to establish a U.S. presence a year ago, it hooked up with Öhrström to build that in Seattle. The company picked up some momentum in August when it raised $11 million in a Series B venture round, and it has some intriguing technology, so it was time to catch up with Öhrström over lunch to find out what’s up.

ProFibrix sees itself carving out a niche in the market for drugs and sealants that are used to stop excess bleeding, both in the surgical operating room and among paramedics—or on the military battlefield. The company is creating a dry powder that is ready to be used at a moment’s notice, can be sprinkled on a wound, remains stable at room temperature, and can be packaged in a spray or a bandage. It sees its potential edge in convenience when going up against standard treatments that need to be thawed, mixed with another solution, or kept in a fridge. If this new product can be proven effective in clinical trials, ProFibrix will tap into a couple different market segments worth about $600 million a year combined in the U.S.

“There’s no doubt about it, we can make significant inroads in the market,” Öhrström says.

Jan Ohrstrom

Jan Ohrstrom

When we met over lunch near his home on Mercer Island, Öhrström was excited about getting ProFibrix set up in a new office on Eastlake, complete with all the usual mundane aspects of a startup—getting the lease signed, phones working, and the office furniture assembled (I could relate this part to when Greg and I got the Xconomy Seattle office up and running in June 2008.)

ZymoGenetics is well known for its blood coagulation expertise, although its Recothrom drug has gotten off to a slow start in sales. ProFibrix CEO Jaap Koopman, it turns out, had been cultivating a relationship with Öhrström for years, dating back to when Ohrstrom oversaw the development of recombinant thrombin (Recothrom). The vision was that if ProFibrix could get Ohrstrom on board—somebody … Next Page »

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