Jim Letourneau's Blog

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Early History of Resverlogix

This post is part of a 16 part series of posts taken from the transcript of an interview I (JL) conducted with Resverlogix (RVX.TO) co-founders Dr. Norman Wong (NW) and Donald McCaffrey (DM).

What follows is a lengthy and candid interview about the history of Resverlogix, recent events at the American Heart Association meetings, and future plans for the company.

I'll be publishing two interview segments a day so not all of the links may be active if you are viewing this near the end of March 28-April 5, 2011.

  1. Background of Dr. Norman Wong

  2. Early History of Resverlogix

  3. HDL Biology

  4. American Heart Association Meeting - 2010

  5. CETP History

  6. Importance of HDL Type

  7. AHA ASSERT Trial Response

  8. ALTs

  9. Investor Reaction

  10. The Next 2 Years

  11. David vs. Goliath

  12. Alzheimer's Therapy Potential

  13. Upcoming Assure Trial

  14. Volatility of Resverlogix

  15. Resverlogix is Expanding

  16. More on the sell-off

Part 2

JL: What year was that?

NW: This was 1999. Don had this BioFuture show, which was a very successful biotech show
that was held across Canada and introduced researchers to the investment community but
also brought in a lot of contacts for us to start RVX. I was one of his contacts. He had
this whole session on gene regulation, and somehow he got my name and somehow I got
his name. I looked at this agenda that Don had created. And I said, "Hey Don," or, "Mr.
McCaffrey, I'd like to help you out in this regard. Maybe I could introduce to you some people
who give some of these talks." Then I arranged that whole session for him. Since then,
after the show, the ApoA-1 research started, the experiments started. People told us back
then, this was a decade and a bit ago, that you could not regulate ApoA-1. And the only way
you could regulate it was using time, meaning that as a person aged, it went down lower.
If you were female, because of the estrogen, it would be higher than those in males. And if
you exercise on a regular basis, it could go up maybe 10%. Those were the only three things
that we knew in addition to alcohol. But I can't recommend alcohol to patients.

JL: You can't drink yourself into good health?

NW: No, you can't. That's a double-edged sword.

JL: Really?

NW: It's a double-edged sword.

JL: Damn.

NW: So, we knew by then there was ApoA-1, and small molecules that we were working with
we could regulate this. We went out ( to the research community) and said, "No, I think
you're wrong. I think there are small molecules." And there were snippets of information in
the Literature that backed this up. There were other companies that had worked on this, and
they had failed.

JL: Why do you think that is?

NW: Because their assays were not as good as our assays. We not only looked at one thing,
we looked at many things, and we had talented people to work with. By then, Don and I
had already started working together. We started our lab, and we configured the assays that
would not only look at one element, we looked at many elements. And so, by looking at these
multiple things, we came up with RVX 208.

DM: Yeah, and because of Norman's background in . . .

NW: Chemistry.

DM: . . . ApoA-1 and a lot of the papers written early on that mentioned ApoA-1 were either
written by Norm or he was quoted in them. So about 40% of them in the early days, that's
a lot of recognition. It attracted a lot of the other key people in ApoA-1. The first one it
attracted was Dr. Jan Johansson, who was the founder of Esperion Therapeutics. Esperion
was sold to Pfizer for $1.3 billion. The technology is still out there today. It's only short-term
technology and can be used for about a month.

But nonetheless, we started attracting these various key opinion people, and in doing so, we
collectively grew. You think of a Big Pharma as having this huge brain trust out there that
knows everything.

It's not quite the case. What's happened to pharma over the last two decades is what
happened to the IT business 20 or 30 years ago, where guys like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates
came out of school and they didn't want to go work for IBM and Xerox. They wanted nothing
to do with it. They wanted to go out into the more exciting IT world. Same thing has
happened with the brightest and best coming out of the universities now. Many don't want to
go work for pharma. They want to be in biotech and get stock options and be on the fun end
of it.