UPDATED: Serial entrepreneur Gary Glick sells another one of his startups for $229M — this time to an unlikely buyer
Gary Glick has proven himself, time and again, a nifty startup artist. After selling Lycera to Celgene, he held a streak for IFM Therapeutics — carving a plate of inflammation programs each time and turning the resulting subsidiary over to Big Pharma, while keeping the core discovery unit — and more recently lined up $270 million for precision oncology work at Scorpion.
His latest deal, though, looks a bit different.
Glick has sold First Wave Bio to AzurRx, a penny stock biotech until a reverse stock split on Friday pushed shares $AZRX back up. The stock has since slid down 11.76% to $4.81. The majority of the $229 million deal is in stock — with only $18 million in cash — and as a result, he will hand over the name, assets and control to AzurRx CEO James Sapirstein.
Still, it appears to be a good enough deal for Glick. The only Form D First Wave has filed, dated 2018, shows it set out to raise at most $5 million and had sold at least $2.6 million worth of equity privately.
First Wave was started around the same time as IFM, Glick told Endpoints News, based on his older academic work on immune metabolism.
“So the company, unlike the other companies I started, was not venture-backed,” he said. “This is a company that was somewhat self-financed with the group of individuals who have helped start all of my companies, and the goal was to run a very lean operation, very focused operation, virtually. There were never any employees in the company, there were a few of us that consulted for the company and (got) equity as well.”
At the heart of the reverse merger are the new formulations that First Wave has devised for niclosamide, an antiparasitic drug approved by the FDA to treat tapeworm infestations. These small molecule formulations are gut-restricted, opening up a range of applications including inflammatory bowel disease — and they had some positive clinical results to back it up.
That caught the attention of AzurRx, which specializes in targeted, non-systemic therapies for gastrointestinal diseases.
“We have been talking to First Wave for a very long time,” said Sapirstein, who noted he’s known Glick since their college days.
Then came the Covid-19 pandemic, and scientific findings out of Korea that niclosamide — a widely available drug listed by the WHO as an essential medicine — may be a “game changer” as an antiviral. The serendipitous development meant the value of First Wave’s programs ballooned so much that AzurRx couldn’t quite afford the deal it was originally envisioning.
So this January, the companies settled for a licensing deal around two indications: Covid-19 related GI infections and immune checkpoint inhibitor-associated colitis and diarrhea in advanced stage cancer patients.
Four months into the Covid-19 study, AzurRx made the decision to just snap it all up — and change its name to First Wave. Its pipeline will now expand to include three clinical IBD indications in ulcerative proctitis and ulcerative proctosigmoiditis, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
“There is a wealth of clinical data that supports the antiviral and anti-inflammatory capabilities of niclosamide,” said James Pennington, AzurRx CMO. “More recently, data generated by First Wave Bio in ulcerative proctitis supported the broader potential for niclosamide in multiple inflammatory bowel diseases where we believe our niclosamide formulations could offer significant advantages over other currently available treatments including steroids, 5-ASAs, and biologics – especially in the mild-to-moderate disease stage.”
Sapirstein added that the new First Wave will also inherit the old First Wave’s manufacturing process and setup, allowing for quick scale up.
Other than niclosamide, First Wave will keep AzurRx’s lead Phase IIb program, MS1819, a potential treatment for severe exocrine pancreatic insufficiency in patients with cystic fibrosis.
For Glick, the sale allows him to focus on other ventures — and the next big thing he’s working on.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to add comments by Gary Glick.