This is the first article in an occasional series about entrepreneurs, CEOs and other leaders Sofinnova Partners has worked with on multiple projects. These people form the relationships that have helped us create and nurture companies that improve people's lives. These are our Partners for Life.
CinCor Pharma, a Sofinnova Partners portfolio company, rang in the New Year as a public company, with an IPO on Jan. 6 that raised nearly $200 million to advance the development of CIN-107, its aldosterone synthase inhibitor. Phase 2 trials of the molecule are planned for the treatment of Resistant Hypertension (rHTN) and Uncontrolled Hypertension (uHTN), among other indications.
The offering, the first biotech IPO of the year, highlighted the second successful collaboration between Marc de Garidel, CinCor's CEO, and Sofinnova Partners. Before joining CinCor as CEO, Garidel led another Sofinnova Partners portfolio company, Corvidia Therapeutics, a cardiorenal-focused clinical-stage company that was bought by Novo Nordisk in 2020 for $2.1 billion.
"The acquisition of Corvidia by Novo was the culmination of a quintessential Sofinnova Partners investment," said Graziano Seghezzi, Managing Partner at Sofinnova Partners. "Marc was instrumental in leading a strong founding team through key milestones to this deal. He brought the complimentary knowledge and expertise at the right time to bring the company to the next level - a win for everyone."
Garidel's photograph is part of the montage on Sofinnova’s "Wall of Fame" in the company’s Paris headquarters. "Ultimately we put those people on the wall because we cherish the fact that they succeeded despite adversity and dire moments," Antoine Papiernik, Sofinnova’s Chairman and Managing Partner, said. "Some people led companies with us more than once — they are really the kind of people who bring us the next deal and drive us forward."
Prior to Corvidia, Garidel was CEO and chairman of Ipsen, a mid-sized biopharmaceutical company focused on oncology, rare disease and neuroscience. During his time as CEO and chairman, revenue tripled at Ipsen, and Garidel remains nonexecutive chairman.
"Marc is perfect because of his experience at Ipsen, where he led a commercial organization and built a strong team," said Maina Bhaman, a partner with Sofinnova Partners' Capital Strategy. "And then with Corvidia, where he took another cardio-metabolic drug through development and was very successful at it for us." She said the CinCor team had "phenomenal breadth," including nonexecutive board members with "very strong experience in the cardio-metabolic or cardiovascular area."
Garidel started his career with an 11-year stint in various posts at Lilly, then moved on to Amgen for 15 years, where he was VP and regional general manager, first for part of Europe then for the global south.
Over the years, Garidel said, he's gained valuable experience launching drugs and building teams for a variety of operations of different sizes. "I could have stayed at Amgen and probably gotten more responsibilities," he said, "but you know, I've always tried to manage big, middle, and small enterprises, and building things has sort of been my specialty."
Q. What attracted you to Corvidia and CinCor?
Being CEO of companies like Corvidia and CinCor is a great experience because you are really very active; you’re really building things. You're in touch with all the key opinion leaders and you’re out there raising funds. And being involved in these developments in the cardiovascular field is absolutely fascinating — this is a new frontier of innovation and development. We’re building something while trying to find solutions for patients who could end up very ill or dying from a stroke or a heart attack.
Q. When is the right time for a startup to consider bringing on board a CEO from the outside?
It depends on the founders, but generally as you start to scale up a company, as you start to do larger trials and raise more funds, the job becomes more about management than the science and this tends to interest founders less.
You need to have the end in mind. Commercially speaking, if you want to develop a blockbuster, you need to do a lot of different trials to figure out what the patient population could be and where this drug would have the most benefit. With time and experience, you also tend to learn how to handle risk profiles and avoid doing things that might potentially hurt patients.
So this is part of the value added when you go from a well-educated, scientifically brilliant founder to a CEO who can get the mix right when it comes to the combination of commercialization and late-stage drug development — this requires a different skill set.
Q. What is the key to making a drug-discovery start-up successful?
There are three considerations for success: The quality of the science, it goes without saying, the quality of the team, and the quality of the investors.
The team at the top will often change when the company enters a new stage — i.e. raising Series B or IPOs. This coincides with designing broader clinical trials.
At CinCor, for example, Terry Coelho came on as our chief financial officer for the IPO. Doing an IPO is a lot of work, and she brought this additional knowledge that we didn't have internally. The results speak for themselves because we are one of the few IPOs this year, which I think is a great compliment to the team.
Catherine Pearce, meanwhile, the COO and co-founder, had been in the cardiovascular space for more than 20 years; she'd been with Merck, with Roche, Medpace, and Teva. She knows how to execute clinical trials. After the design of the study — for which the chief medical officer is responsible — execution is critical. Catherine has been fantastic at running trials.
Q. You mentioned investors — what do you like most about working with Sofinnova Partners?
They have a great track record of identifying good technologies and good products early — a sense of finding these little jewels here and there that are a good combination between innovation and a good safety profile.
I know some of these people very well, so there's a trust factor. Maybe also the fact that I'm French and they have historically been based in France and they have been clearly the leader in France by far — that also certainly helped.
We sort of followed each other, and I think on both sides of the Atlantic we've been successful. Sofinnova Partners is not only very strong in Europe but has been building a strong presence in the U.S. because of their success. They are able to partner with some of the larger, very well-known VC firms.
They have a great reputation and a great network, and the partners themselves are people you trust and respect.
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