After years of work on monoclonal antibodies, KaloBios Pharmaceuticals announced last fall it was winding down operations. A white knight came in the unlikely form of Martin Shkreli, who took over the company with a $3.2 million investment and stepped up as its CEO — until he was arrested on securities fraud charges. The company looked again on the verge of insolvency.
It’s managed to right its course a bit, however, announcing last week that it has emerged from bankruptcy and raised new funding. STAT chatted with new CEO Dr. Cameron Durrant, who joined KaloBios in March (with a salary of $50,000 per month):
On top of developing monoclonal antibodies, you’re now pursuing a drug that treats Chagas disease. Is it because fears of global warming are leading to the prospect of a rise in this tropical disease?
Benznidazole is considered the gold standard treatment for Chagas disease, which was added to the FDA list of neglected diseases in August last year. But the drug’s only available on a spotty basis from the CDC. The majority of the disease pops up among people who have migrated from Latin America, but there’s growing evidence that there are some de novo cases of Chagas in the US now and we expect there will be more. The initial discussions to acquire the drug were between Savant Neglected Diseases and Martin Shkreli in December.
So did Shkreli help KaloBios get back up off the ground?
There’s no doubt that people like to watch a bit of a circus — and maybe that benefited the company in terms of garnering some of the attention, which it perhaps wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. But we’re also moving past that.
With all the trouble surrounding the company, what made you want to join KaloBios?
Why join? I like the challenge. I’ve never had to deal with a company that’s in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, being delisted by Nasdaq, have the CEO arrested, the clinical trials suspended, have lots of people leave, have the board resign, and have investors ask for their money back — never mind having all that stuff happen all at once. So, from a personal development point of view, I thought this would be an interesting job.