Fedratinib is a great drug. Not ‘likely to be’, or ‘possibly’, or ‘might be’…it is a great drug. A highly selective JAK2 inhibitor, it had completed phase III back in 2012, having been in over 1000 patients when it was put on clinical hold by the then developers of the Fedratinib molecule, Sanofi. Sanofi owned the program through their acquisition of TargeGen and John Hood (one of the inventors of the molecule and TargeGen CSO) had stayed close to the program. He was committed to the molecule and Sanofi, to their credit, assigned all rights in the program to the newly created Impact Biomedicines in 2015. With John Hood as CEO, he brought together the Impact team and both Jon Edwards and I from Medicxi as initial institutional investors.
The first major milestone was to get the clinical hold lifted. As John asserted, and we agreed, the original clinical hold decision was premature and unfairly cast a shadow over the drug. The FDA agreed and the hold was lifted in August 2017, just in time for John to headline at the Medicxi Forum in front of an appreciative audience of our Pharma and Biotech friends. It was a very special moment. That event catalysed a great deal of inbound interest, to the extent that we engaged Rakesh Patel and his colleagues at PJT Partners to help us with a transaction. The original plan had always been to take the drug to market and, to that end, we were pleased to get the support of Oberland Capital to help us finance the later stages of registration and product launch. But it was clear that Celgene in particular, with their strategic insight and muscle, could do more justice to the molecule than the Impact team would initially have been able to, building out from our skeleton crew. In the end, it was an easy decision and we have the outcome announced.
If I was to sum up the experience of working with John, Charlie, Raghu, Cat and the very special team at Impact, it would be ‘easy’. No hysterics or shenanigans, just a very straightforward relationship where everyone is good at their job and respects one another. Plus, it’s been a huge amount of fun along the way. It just doesn’t get better than this in my view and I doff my balloon to John and the Impact team for an outcome everyone should be proud of.