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Snapshot: Medivation (NASDAQ: MDVN)

Name: David Hung, M.D.
Title: Co-Founder and CEO
Company: Medivation, Inc.
Location: San Francisco, CA
Year Founded: 1995
Number of Employees: Approximately 250 as of September 30, 2012
Description: Medivation, Inc. (Nasdaq: MDVN) is a biopharmaceutical company focused on the rapid development of novel therapies to treat serious diseases for which there are limited treatment options. Medivation aims to transform the treatment of these diseases and offer hope to critically ill patients and their families. For more information, please visit us at
Products or Pipeline, Phase: XTANDI® (enzalutamide) is marketed in the U.S.

What is the indication and stage of your drug/therapy for cancer?

On August 31, 2012 the FDA approved XTANDI® (enzalutamide) capsules for the treatment of patients with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer who have received docetaxel.  With our partner Astellas, we look forward to reporting progress on the future growth and use of XTANDI to treat patients with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer who have received docetaxel, while we continue to explore enzalutamide’s potential utility in earlier prostate cancer indications and in breast cancer.

Why is innovation important to the life sciences industry?

Innovation is important to the life sciences industry because human diseases are complex, generally multifactorial in origin and constantly changing and adapting to and resisting therapeutic approaches to combat them.  Because of this, it is often most advantageous or even necessary to develop novel approaches that target these different multiple pathways as opposed to simply just trying to make better mousetraps for the same pathway or same approach.  Infectious diseases or cancer often try to get around established therapeutic strategies to inhibit their growth by finding alternative pathways to escape eradication.  So just as viruses or cancers innovate to find novel escape pathways, the life sciences industry has to innovate to keep up with or get ahead of these diseases.

However, there is another reason that innovation is important to the life sciences industry.  Even though “me too” drugs can be profitable, they don’t often provide large enough incremental benefits over the standard of care and yet their development can be just as costly as a novel agent.  Some of this has probably contributed to increased healthcare costs as companies battle for market share on slight differences in drug efficacy, safety or convenience profiles while not necessarily offering quantum leaps in medical advancement.  California and the US as a whole are already plagued by high healthcare costs.  Aspiring for truly innovative game-changing new therapies, although more risky than trying to simply build a slightly better mousetrap, in my opinion is more likely to lead to greater progress in medicine.  When I founded the company in 2003, I named it Medivation precisely because I wanted to develop drugs that represented true medical innovation, not just modest or slight incremental benefits over predecessor drugs, and I’m proud of the fact that we’ve started to fulfill that mission as evidenced by the August 31 approval of our first drug XTANDI.

What are some new (business, funding, research) models you are seeing that are innovative?

We’ve taken a few approaches at Medivation that some other but not a lot of other companies have.  As an example, in financing Medivation in 2003 after the internet bubble burst, capital was tight and we were concerned about excessive dilution in getting financed.  So we identified a public shell called Orion Acquisition Corporation, which had never been operational, in other words, a SPAC (special purpose acquisition vehicle).  We bought Orion, reversed-merged Medivation’s technology into the SPAC, and in essence went public on day 1 via this reverse merger.  As a result, we were immediately able to seek financing as a public vehicle in the public markets as opposed to using standard venture capital, allowing us access to capital at more favorable valuations while maintaining control of the company with a board that was always aligned with management’s interests to fulfill our mission of developing truly innovative, novel therapies as opposed to focusing on a quick return on investment.  I’m not sure that we would have reached our current market cap or retained control of our company had we pursued more standard financing alternatives.  But while most reverse mergers fail, we were lucky to have this one work out the way it did, even if the path we chose was a bit atypical.

Do you think California has a particular “style” in overcoming the inherent challenges of the life sciences industry?

I don’t know if California has a particular “style” but I do think that California has expertise history of innovation in life sciences and especially in biotechnology as recombinant DNA technology was really invented in California (at UCSF) and many of the original great biotech companies (Genentech, Chiron, Amgen, etc.) were California-based.  As a result, life sciences companies in California have pretty much “seen it all” and that experience is an invaluable asset.  But perhaps most importantly, there is a very large pool of talent in California in the life sciences area and the most important asset by far of any company is its employees.  I also think that being the birthplace of truly disruptive technologies like gene splicing and personal computers, California has a certain legacy and spirit of innovation, risk taking and entrepreneurialism that I believe are essential in making life sciences companies successful.


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