OTT30: Our 1st Start-up Listed on NASDAQ & Russell 3000

2015 marks the 30th anniversary for Emory OTT and part of that celebration includes a series of blog posts highlighting important “firsts” for the office. This month we highlight our first start-up to be listed on both the NASDAQ Biotech Index and the Russell 3000 – Pharmasset.

All startups share the same beginning – an idea, yet, of the many companies launched on good ideas, only a few experience success. Among these successful startups is Pharmasset, a biotech company founded in 1998 by Emory’s Raymond Schinazi, PhD and Dennis Liotta, PhD with assistance from OTT. Pharmasset was originally set out on developing new compounds for treating viral infections and cancer and more specifically spent considerable time focusing on the Hepatitis C virus.

Hepatitis is an inflammation in the liver, and Hepatitis C (HCV) specifically is a contagious viral infection of the liver with symptoms ranging from mild to severe, lasting a few weeks to a lifetime, and being acute or chronic. Transmission is spread primarily through contact with infected blood. While Hepatitis A & B have vaccines, Hepatitis C unfortunately does not, so the focus is currently on treating the infection rather than preventing it. There are an estimated 3.2 million people infected with HCV in the U.S. with more than 50 percent of HIV patients are also co-infected with HCV.

OTT30 Celebration GraphicIn 2008 Pharmasset was selected to join both the NASDAQ Biotechnology Index and the Russell 3000. Both of these indexes are utilized in various investment and fund management strategies. At the time of listing the company had a pipeline consisting of three drug candidates in various stages of clinical trials. Pharmasset is the first, and to this date the only, Emory start-up to be selected for such indexes.

In 2011, Gilead Sciences purchased Pharmasset for $11 billion primarily to obtain its three HCV drug candidates. The key benefits for Gilead in this acquisition were that Pharmasset’s drugs were oral, as opposed to the majority of the current injectable treatments; as well as Gilead’s ability to add these drugs to their own HCV drug candidates, creating combination therapies. There are many in the field who feel that combination therapies, similar to HIV, may ultimately be needed to effectively deal with HCV.

To see more about Emory OTT’s start-ups please go to our website here.