A near death experience
Four years ago, with barely E1 million in the bank, Pharming Group N.V. was forced into receivership, having bitten off more than it could chew trying to develop alpha glucosidase to treat Pompe's disease in a joint venture with Genzyme Corp.
Today, Pharming (Euronext: PHARM, Leiden, the Netherlands) has about four years of cash, its recombinant human C1 esterase inihibitor (rhC1INH) is in Phase III trials to treat hereditary angioedema, and its recombinant human lactoferrin is poised to enter the market as a food supplement.
The company also has seen its market capitalization rise from E4 million ($3.7 million) at the bottom to E343.4 million ($408.4 million) as of Friday.
When it was given a second chance, the key to the company's turnaround was its ability to transform its transgenic technology platform into a commercial story, using assets that had been on the shelf all along.
Digging a hole
PHARM's history goes back to November 1988, when the company was founded as Genfarm B.V. to develop transgenic technologies to manufacture recombinant protein therapeutics. The company had transgenic technology for producing recombinant proteins in the mammary glands of cows, and later added transgenic rabbits to produce proteins for smaller markets such as orphan indications.
Within a year, the company changed its name to Gene Pharm Europe BV when it became a wholly owned subsidiary of GenPharm International Inc. in California, which had technology for producing transgenic mice that made monoclonal antibodies.
Gene Pharm changed its name again to Gene Pharming Europe B.V. and on December 16, 1990, announced the birth of the world's first transgenic bull, Herman, which carried the gene for human lactoferrin.
In April 1995, GenPharm spun out its subsidiary, now named Pharming BV, after concluding the synergies from the merger had become limited.
At this point, Pharming had three preclinical programs: lactoferrin for nutritional applications, which was partnered with N.V. Verenigde Bedrijven Nutricia (Zoetermeer, the Netherlands), and a research collaboration with Cohesion Technologies Inc. to develop recombinant