STARTUPS TO WATCH: Atreus Pharma

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Jim Donnelly
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Atreus Pharmaceuticals boss Bill Dickie isn’t shy about the small local headcount at his biotechnology firm. In fact, the former Liponex CEO said that in his space he’d be unwise to do business any other way.

Atreus Pharma CEO Bill Dickie. (photo supplied)

“We’ve made a deliberate attempt to make it a very virtual company – the plan has always been to contract out when we can, and not build a bricks-and-mortar office,” he said, adding that the firm’s other employee is founder and chief scientific officer Allan Green, a former medical director for Dupont Medical Products’ New England Nuclear Corp., who lives in Boston.

“And that’s more and more the model with small biotech now.”

Mr. Dickie acknowledged that in the biotech space success is measured in years, not months. It’s for this reason the firm plans to submit pre-clinical packages to both the U.S. Federal Drug Administration and Health Canada by mid-2011. If all goes well, he said, human trials could begin as early as this year, “with a product on the market by 2015.”

The technology seems particularly adept at diagnosing rheaumatoid arthritis, Mr. Dickie said, but can be used in other applications. The company is currently studying its value in monitoring Crohn’s Disease, and in the field of cardiology.

Mr. Dickie named Terry Ruddy, head of cardiology at the Ottawa Heart Institute, as an early supporter.  “We may be doing some of our early clinical trials at the Ottawa Hospital,” he added.

The company’s development of its in-body radiopharmaceutical product, one that can be used in diagnostic imaging to detect dead or dying cells, got a booster shot in March of 2010 when France’s Advanced Accelerator Applications announced a $6-million, multi-stage investment.

AAA holds the European distribution rights to Atreus Pharma’s technology.

Mr. Dickie said the company’s early days also saw significant funding through local angels, but declined to name them. “They don’t like a lot of publicity,” he said. Robert Bender, a 30-year life sciences veteran with experience founding companies and dealing in venture capital, sits on Atreus’s board along with Arnon Corp. CEO Ron Vered, another active biotech investor.

In the pharma sector, on the commercial end, it’s all about marketing. (And) the bigger companies are better equipped to do that than we would be to do it from scratch. CEO Bill Dickie

Distribution rights for the rest of the world reside with Atreus, Mr. Dickie said, adding the firm will look to be acquired or do a major licensing deal once a product is ready.

Year founded: 2007

Local head count: 1

Funding: US$6.75 million in venture and angel funding

Product: In-body radiopharmaceutical product for molecular imaging

Organizations: New England Nuclear, U.S. Federal Drug Administration, Health Canada Ottawa Heart Institute Ottawa Hospital Arnon

Geographic location: Boston, France

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