- Richard Heyman and Charles Sawyers, a respected cancer researcher, are pursuing research on a prostate cancer drug at their startup company ORIC, which stands for "overcoming resistance in cancer."
- Heyman has been successful as a startup entrepreneur. He was a co-founder of both Aragon Pharmaceuticals and Seragon Pharmaceuticals, both of which were sold profitably.
- The team recently completed a $53 million series B venture financing deal for ORIC, which adds to their war chest. Last year, they raised $15 million.
Heyman's success is largely a function of his ability to partner well within the industry. The last two times Heyman started up a company, Sawyers was by his side—and both times, they created something of value that was picked up by larger companies.
In the case of Aragon, which was founded in 2009 as a company focused on developing a prostate cancer drug, Johnson & Johnson bought it for $650 million upfront, with another $350 million in potential milestones. Likewise, Seragon was eventually acquired by Genentech for $725 million upfront, with a potential $1 billion in milestone payments.
The current focus is on developing a prostate cancer drug for men whose cancer has become resistant to drugs that have a castration-focused mode of action. Hormone deprivation therapies generally work for a while and then no longer work.
This is the point at which patients are likely to die—27,000 men are expected to die from prostate cancer this year. According to Allied Market research data, the castration-resistant drug market is expected to hit $9.5 billion by 2020.