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Aerial Hears a Cool Jazz $400M Wake-Up Call

Moise Khayrallah, Ph.D.

One of the pharmaceutical world’s most amazing serialized success stories, supported by the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, has published another chapter to rave reviews.

Aerial BioPharma of Morrisville has sold rights to its clinical-stage narcolepsy drug, ADX-N05, for a potential $397 million to Jazz Pharmaceuticals of Dublin, Ireland.

Aerial is a small, fast-moving virtual drug company – the third in a series started in Morrisville by CEO Moise Khayrallah, Ph.D., and partners Stephen Butts, MBA, Gary Bream, Ph.D., David Ward, M.D., Karen Adams and Paul Ketreridge, R.Ph.

The group launched Addrenex Pharmaceuticals in 2006, and three years later sold it to the Japanese global pharma company Shionogi for $29 million. NCBiotech helped them bootstrap Addrenex with a $25,000 start-up loan and a $135,000 Small Business Research Loan.

The following year they formed Neuronex to develop an epilepsy drug and related therapies targeting several central nervous system disorders. This time, the Biotech Center provided a $248,886 SRL to help the company with formulation development and manufacturing to support a Phase I clinical trial for the experimental epilepsy drug it had acquired.

In 2011 the Center also provided Neuronex a $250,000 Strategic Growth Loan to help it test its therapy against another epilepsy drug already on the market. A year later the owners sold Neuronex to Acorda Therapeutics in a deal worth up to $134 million, even as it was forming Aerial.

In 2013, NCBiotech awarded a $250,000 Small Business Research Loan to help the company determine the safety and efficacy of a novel compound to treat excessive daytime sleepiness in people suffering from narcolepsy.

The string of NCBiotech loans contributed not only to the group’s available cash, but also to its credibility as an investment risk, resulting in millions in angel investment and hundreds of millions from the buy-outs.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke defines narcolepsy as a chronic brain disorder that involves poor control of sleep-wake cycles. The Institute, one of the National Institutes of Health, explains that people with narcolepsy experience periods of extreme daytime sleepiness and sudden, irresistible bouts of sleep that can strike at any time. These “sleep attacks” usually last a few seconds to several minutes.

The Aerial team, by contrast, is anything but sleepy.

Khayrallah explains the founders’ success this way: "Our approach is to rapidly bring innovative drugs to market to improve patients’ lives and enable our investors to achieve a positive return."

And all that Jazz.

Comments

Thank you for sharing the wonderful success story about biotech SMEs like Aerial BioPharma! Hopefully, such efforts would draw the attention from our state policymakers to increase NC's funding to the industry.

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