Jun 24

Value of Stubbornness: The NovaBiotics Story

Aberdeen based NovaBiotics was spun out of the Rowett Institute in 2004 to develop and commercialise NP213 a cyclic peptide with anti-infective properties for fungal infections – specifically nail infections. It was stated at time, an anti-infective cyclic peptide was a new class of drug, thus was looked upon with greater scrutiny by investors. This led to the main thrust of Dr. Deborah O’Neil’s, NovaBiotics CEO & CSO, presentation who said that from 2005 it was challenging to secure funding as: peptide chemical entities were novel, a big selling anti-fungal drug came off patent so generics flooded the market and increased scrutiny of the research for market access. However staff, investors and the science continued regardless in reference to the dogged determination of Thomas Edison who stated “I haven’t failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that didn’t work”. And this was the message, even though the science was completely sound throughout, it was the determination required for success that was to be underlined.


The twists and turns of the company path from call to call, meeting to meeting and event to event were honestly and openly relayed by Deborah; who mentioned several examples of taking chances and following up on everything, waiting for people who were discourteously late, but offered genuine positive potential, as you never know – and many times it paid off. Also it was said not to get discouraged when potential meetings or opportunities don’t go well as these also have benefit. An example given was when their data was audited by potential partners, who didn’t actually invest, but came back with no red flags regarding the science. Their reason for not investing was unrelated and outside the control of NovaBiotics. However this was taken as a positive by the company and communicated to investors as reassurance that the science was solid. As some deals weren’t done, the process provided optimism to continue and search for other partners, which led to further positive progression.

Notably they were almost sold by Goldman Sacs who wanted to maximise NP213, but it never happened, and this was retrospectively viewed positively as it would have been wrong, and could cut the potential for the other drugs in their current pipeline ever being established. Furthermore they found better partners for their main compound by taking chances, taking their licks, learning and improving for next time – all while informing their understanding of the potential market(s). Consequently from 2005 NovaBiotics have raised 17.5 million pounds and found TARO a development and commercialisation partner for the dermatology market with a strong pipeline of other candidates with three clinical trials ongoing.


In 2014 the market moved and there was a renewed interest in anti-infectives and anti-fungals. The company found itself in a great position with hard won industry contacts for potential partners and manufacturing providers. Consequently the take home message from the presentation is one of example by the NovaBiotics CEO which is to not give up, to persevere and take chances to reach success which is by no means a linear path. And that this leads to an informed sixth sense which helps to deliver progressive steps forward with an essential sense of optimism.

This article isn’t about the specific science of the company; for that information please visit the company website, the link is shown below.

Company Website

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