After years in the industry, Isaacsohn identified gaps in drug development and established a company to solve them.
Editor's note: This article appears in the June 2023 edition of HealthLeaders magazine.
CinRx co-founder and CEO Jonathan Isaacsohn, MD, FACC, wants to speed up the drug development process and provide medicines to patients faster than historically possible. To achieve this, however, his company will never bring an actual product to market. That's not his MO.
After working in the industry for several years, Isaacsohn decided he had seen enough failures in the drug development process. With more than 90% of drugs from biotech companies failing, he took his 30-plus years of experience in the industry and created a solution that would improve the process. The objective was to use abandoned or repurposed drugs that had not been optimized by other companies and create an entire functional company around each product to fully research and develop it to its full potential.
"Many drugs are discontinued because of problems that could not have been anticipated," Isaacsohn says. "Safety issues, lack of efficacy, lack of benefit over and above other approved drugs, are all reasons to be unsuccessful, but so many drugs fail because of ill-conceived strategies and poor execution. That is the driving force behind why we conceived CinRx, and what we aim to solve in the model that we put together."
This model includes several biotechnology companies all supported under one dedicated funding system which Isaacsohn says helps accelerate the process. CinRx is not just a financial investor in these companies. Instead, it establishes a fully functioning company around each candidate and helps drive its success. Most VC-funded companies receive outside funding and operate on their own.
"At CinRx, we do a fair amount of capital raising at the holding company level, but there's an integration between that money and the execution," Isaacsohn says. "That is quite differentiated from the general model of how biotechs get funded."
"We bring funding into the holding company, and we use that funding to help us establish companies or partnerships," he says. "Ultimately each company follows a trajectory appropriate for that company to a point of exit, wherever that may be, early in the process or later in the process. We never intend to be a pharma company."
As an example, the recent sale of CinCor to AstraZeneca was one of CinRx's first steps toward realizing the company vision, which was set in motion nearly eight years ago when CinRx was founded in 2015.
In 2019, CinCor entered in an agreement with Roche to acquire the rights to a novel aldosterone synthase inhibitor (ASI) compound, CIN-107 also known as baxdrostat.
CinCor conducted phase one studies, safety studies, and a proof-of-concept study. The positive results showcased the value of the drug, and that caught AstraZeneca's attention, who bought the portfolio company for $1.9 billion this February.
"What happened with CinCor actually validates the model that we work in," Isaacsohn says. "Each one of our companies ultimately will find a new home."
Other companies under the CinRx umbrella include CinDome, CinSano, Cinphloro, and CinFina.
As Isaacsohn mentioned, CinRx also operates a second model by partnering with existing companies that, for whatever reason, don't have adequate capacity to develop the drug on their own. CinRx partners with the company by investing in it, so it has "skin in the game," and it then drives the development on the other company's behalf. Two of these partnerships currently exist: vTv Therapeutics and Retromer Therapeutics, bringing the total number of portfolio companies CinRx is working with to seven.
It is this multiple shots on goal approach in the drug portfolio that expedites the process. "By sharing resources across companies combined with an efficient process, we're being good shepherds of the funding," Isaacsohn says.
CinRx's pipeline of transformational medicines include therapies for diabetes, gastroparesis, IBS, metabolic and neurodegenerative diseases, and oncology.
Being the CEO of CinRx puts all of Isaacsohn's previous work experience to good use. Throughout his career, he has worked in drug development from early phases through global submissions in various therapeutic areas. He is also a cardiologist, trained in internal medicine and cardiology at Harvard Medical School, and has taught on the cardiology faculty at Yale Medical School. Isaacsohn was one of the founders at the ground floor of global CRO Medpace and worked there for 14 years, until it was sold.
CinRx works closely with Medpace as its development arm, testing and developing the compounds it acquires. This keeps CinRx on the cutting edge of drug development, Isaacsohn says, as Medpace has many of the resources needed to develop a drug and as drug development has evolved, so have they.
After the sale of Medpace, Isaacsohn served as CMO for Teva Pharmaceuticals where he drove development of Teva's specialty drugs and the new therapeutic entities initiative across all therapeutic areas.
This collective experience prepared him well for the challenges at CinRx.
"I have been in this industry for a long time from all different vantage points, and different roles. I'm a trained cardiologist and was in academic medicine. I did the first human study with Mevacor. I was a principal investigator on hundreds of trials. I was among the founding group that established the CRO Medpace. I ran the medical and regulatory side and that's where I got exposed to biotech companies. I did literally hundreds of programs on behalf of other biotech companies, and that's where I learned the trade."
Isaacsohn believes himself to be a democratic leader and he aims to keep the organizational structure flat, giving everybody a role, and a chance to participate in decision making. "We don't have the kind of hierarchy that makes people feel they need to keep quiet, or they can't express themselves. We value everybody's opinion. It's very much a family feel in our group."
Isaacsohn credits his leadership success to his varied experience. "I've been around the block," he says. "A lot of it just has to do with experience."
Editor's note: This story was updated to correct the spelling of Cinphloro. Updated 3/28/23.
“Many drugs fail because of ill-conceived strategies and poor execution. That is what we aim to solve in the model we put together. ”
Jonathan Isaacsohn, MD, CEO, CinRx.
Robin Robinson is a contributing writer for HealthLeaders.
As 90% of drugs from biotech companies keep failing, Isaacsohn sought a better way to develop drugs.
The sale of CinCor to AstraZeneca in February demonstrates the business model.
A 'mosaic' of biotechnology companies provides more shots on goal.
From cardiologist to CMO, Isaacsohn's experience is the perfect toolbox for CinRx.