The Altheus executives cited several factors, including the fact that Oklahoma has only a decade or so of commercial drug development experience.
“It's incredibly difficult to develop a drug,” Briggs said. “Many fail, get relocated, or stall.”
In addition, investment capital is more available today for life science startups such as Altheus to develop their drugs in Oklahoma rather than sell out quickly to investors who want to relocate the company elsewhere.
“I think a lot depends on the support we've received from the state, from state investors, from regional investors and the Presbyterian Health Foundation,” Dr. Harty said. “Just having a place to hang our hat has been very helpful.”
Altheus has survived the long pre-revenue drug development period by raising $12.5 million in investment capital and another $2.5 million in federal and state research grants. Lead investors were ProLog Ventures from St. Louis, the Oklahoma Life Science Fund, the Chickasaw Nation, Oklahoma Equity Partners and i2E.
“We've been able to stay here and raise the money we need to get to clinical studies, and that shows the maturation of the market,” Briggs said. “It is an important milestone to have not one but two active Phase 2 clinical trials going on in Oklahoma-based companies whose operations are still here.”
He looked across the table at the company's founder.
“Dr. Harty is definitely an Oklahoma pioneer,” Briggs said.
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Jim Stafford is communications specialist with i2E Inc. in Oklahoma City.