Maxia Pharmaceuticals Inc. was formed by President and CEO Magnus Pfahl to exploit the therapeutic potential in a library of retinoids and related compounds owned by the French company Galderma. Retinoids are Vitamin A-like compounds with activity throughout the body, but broad-acting retinoids, have limited therapeutic potential because they affect too many body tissues. By contrast, Maxia has built a pipeline of compounds with low toxicity and activity against a variety of diseases by targeting specific tissues or cell types that respond to retinoids.

Retinoids themselves are essential in growth and development. Retinoid receptors are particularly important in embryonic tissue because they shift the balance of activity in cells from proliferation to differentiation. While this is a powerful property with many applications, side effects are potentially serious and include teratogenicity (damage to the fetus). The trick is to harness retinoids' attributes for specific indications.