Announcement from Selexys is great news for Oklahoma City

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Oklahoman

The announcement that an Oklahoma City-based pharmaceutical company has come up with a drug to treat sickle sell anemia patients, and that the firm may one day be purchased by one of the giants in the drug industry, is terrific news for the city and our biosciences sector.

The president and CEO of Selexys Pharmaceuticals Corp., Dr. Scott Rollins, says his firm has received $23 million in venture capital financing to help pay for a Phase 2 clinical study of the company’s drug, called SelG1. Once that study is completed successfully, Rollins said, Novartis Pharmaceuticals has first dibs to buy Selexys and the drug. That deal could be worth as much as $665 million.

Sheri Stickley, who heads the Oklahoma Bioscience Association, said this announcement “puts us on the map. This draws attention to the great science and the great companies that we have here in Oklahoma.”

We are indeed blessed to have a vibrant and growing biosciences sector, with men and women striving to unlock mysteries to diseases such as Alzheimer’s, lupus, cancer and diabetes. Rollins noted that Oklahomans’ fingerprints are all over his company — an Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation researcher discovered the technology, and a city company is manufacturing it.

Attracting venture capital to this part of the country has been a long-standing problem, which makes the $23 million all the more encouraging. Those funds will allow Selexys to expand its staff and its space at the Presbyterian Health Foundation, and to contract with local vendors to start the clinical study testing.

Selexys got this far with financial help from local investors, grants and funding from the state’s Economic Development Generating Excellence program. The latter is now a thing of the past after the Legislature drained the fund this year. EDGE was good while it lasted though, as evidenced by Selexys’ very good news this week.