Nova CEO deals himself out of jobWhen a Nova...

LIFE SCIENCES

September 08, 1992|By Liz Bowie

Nova CEO deals himself out of job

When a Nova Pharmaceutical Corp. shareholder stood up to criticize the amount of money chief executive Hans Mueller will receive when he leaves the company in six months, Dr. Mueller wanted to wince.

The Nova CEO had just helped design a merger with Scios Inc. that would put him out of a job.

"I can only assure you I would rather have the job than the cash," Dr. Mueller said in an interview shortly after the formation of the new biotechnology company, Scios Nova Inc., of Mountain View, Calif.

When he leaves in six months Dr. Mueller, 51, will take $830,000 in cash and stock options. Not enough to retire on, he said, but "I'm not in the poor house."

So he plans to look for a new job. "I want to stay in Baltimore," he said. "I kind of have a sense of commitment to the region."

Dr. Mueller came to Nova in 1985, three years after it was founded, and has guided the company for the past several years. "I've built this company. When I came there was very little there -- very little resources."

But he came to believe a huge infusion of cash would be needed in the next five years to get Nova's products to market. And the company didn't have it.

He said he felt a responsibility to shareholders, so he decided to look for a deal with another company that would keep some of Nova intact.

"It was clear to me that this deal would have been very difficult to consummate if I would have insisted on being chief executive officer," Dr. Mueller said.

So he decided to leave. And he does so a bit wistfully. "It is a sad moment," he said. "This is the end of a piece of Nova history."

Another bit of news on Scios Nova: The speculation is that NovaScreen, a small part of Nova's business, will be sold to Adheron Inc., a tiny College Park company that was founded several years ago based on research out of the University of Maryland.

NovaScreen, with 15 employees, screens thousands of compounds under contracts with government and business.

Oncor develops probe for breast cancer

Oncor Inc., a Gaithersburg biotechnology company, says it has developed a new probe that can detect one of the most fatal forms of breast cancer.

Scientists have discovered that subtle changes in the DNA of specific genes are important in the development of cancer.

Oncor develops DNA probes, which are segments of DNA that bind to a piece of a cell's nucleus.

For a patient who has been diagnosed with breast cancer, the probe can be used to search for a specific gene in the tumor. If the gene -- called an Her-2 neu gene -- is present, then the physician knows that the woman's prognosis may be poor and can start aggressive treatment.

The Mayo Clinic and the University of Southern California School of Medicine will begin testing the probe in patients.

The results could be used to support the company's application for approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The company also recently entered into a two-year agreement with the University of Utah to further develop and test its DNA probe for prostate cancer.

Genetic Therapy lures Squibb official

Genetic Therapy Inc., the Gaithersburg biotechnology firm that is one of the leaders in gene therapy research, was able to recruit the senior director of business development and planning from Bristol Myer Squibb Co.

Robert C. Riley will be the Gaithersburg biotechnology company's senior vice president for business development and planning.

The new position reflects the growth of the company's collaborations with other companies and research institutions. "The number of licensing agreements and the scope of our collaboration has become sufficient that we need someone to focus on that specifically rather than handle that as needed," said Marc Schneebaum, the chief financial officer.

Firm seeks approval of generic AZT

A Toronto-based pharmaceutical company, Novopharm Inc., has asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for permission to market a generic version of AZT, a drug prescribed to AIDS patients.

Novopharm is already challenging the validity of a Burroughs Wellcome use patent in Canada.

The company claims that the use of AZT to treat acquired immune deficiency syndrome was discovered by National Institutes of Health researchers and omitted from the patent filings.

The U.S. market for AZT, one of the few drugs available to treat AIDS patients, is estimated at $125 million.

Novopharm has asked for fast track approval of the generic AZT.

Venture capitalists join regional group

Baltimore's venture capitalists have joined forces with some Pennsylvania area counterparts to create a regional association.

The Mid-Atlantic Venture Association, which has 24 venture capital firms as members, was created as an umbrella organization for the Greater Baltimore Venture Capital Group and the Delaware Valley Venture Group.

The director, Mary Ann Gray, works at New Enterprise Associates in Baltimore and Grotech Partners in Timonium.

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