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DesignMedix: Maintain Product Focus or Leverage Technology Platform?

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biotechnology management case

Elizabeth R. Bivins-Smith, Bettina M. Frana, and W. Kellogg Thorsell
School of Business Administration, Portland State University

Key issue(s)/decision(s): DesignMedix, Inc. is a start-up bioscience company focused on developing treatments for drug-resistant infectious diseases and cancer. David Peyton, DesignMedix’s chief scientific officer and professor of chemistry at Portland State University, and his team were in the development stage of a compound used to treat chloroquine-resistant malaria, a disease that claims the lives of over one million people annually. The leadership team of this university-based start-up was faced with the challenge of attracting investors and corporate partners while bringing its lead candidate to market. As typical in a start-up environment, financial resources were limited, and DesignMedix had to effectively utilize its human and financial capital. The company’s primary dilemma was whether to focus on therapeutics for malaria, which was a core competency, or extend their technology as a platform to develop treatments for additional drug-resistant diseases. The resolution of this dilemma would influence the company’s ability to raise capital, obtain partnerships with leading pharmaceutical companies, and develop its drug portfolio.

Companies/institutions: DesignMedix, Portland State University

Technology: DesignMedix designed a hybrid drug to treat chloroquine-resistant malaria. This compound incorporated chloroquine, a widely used treatment for malaria, linked to a reversal agent, which prevented the malaria parasite from expelling the drug.

Stage of development at time of issue/decision: DesignMedix was in the preclinical stage of development for its lead anti-malarial compound and in the research stage for additional malaria drugs and antibiotics.

Indication/therapeutic area: Malaria affects 350 to 500 million people annually and cause greatest mortality in women and young children. DesignMedix’s lead candidate targeted chloroquine-resistant malaria, a growing threat in endemic areas.

Geography: United States, developing countries

Keywords: malaria, chloroquine, hybrid drug, drug resistance, platform technology, pharmaceutical industry, bioentrepreneurship

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