Voice of Industry: How Aronora is developing ‘paradigm-shifting therapies’

Erik I. Tucker

Oregon Bio recently talked with Erik I. Tucker, Ph.D., president and CEO of Aronora, Inc., a clinical stage biotechnology company developing paradigm-shifting therapies for serious hematologic diseases. Aronora launched and is headquartered in Portland and we recently heard some of Dr. Tucker’s wisdom.

Q. What is Aronora’s mission?
Aronora is a clinical stage biopharmaceutical company with a mission to develop safe, paradigm-shifting drugs to treat life-threatening blood diseases. We have three drug candidates in clinical Phase 2 that are being developed to prevent or treat significant blood clotting diseases, such as stroke and heart attack, without the bleeding side-effects of existing drugs.

Q: How does Aronora fit into the Pacific Northwest’s biotech and life science ecosystem? 
Aronora spun out from Oregon Health & Science University in 2009, and we were the first company to join the Oregon Bioscience Incubator in 2012, so we’ve been part of the developing ecosystem for a while. We’ve had success raising significant non-dilutive funding through the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) small business grant mechanism, and also by signing a partnership deal with Bayer. We’re leveraging that knowledge to advise new companies in various facets of business development and fundraising. In fact, we’ve helped five local biotech companies win NIH small business grant awards by providing advice, templates, and critical scientific and business reviews. We have also provided our expertise to several bioscience companies pertaining to business development, accounting, auditing and licensing agreements. We are excited to help build a successful biotech cluster here in the metropolitan Portland area.

Q. How does Aronora innovate?
Aronora’s innovations are built upon more than two decades of basic research into blood-clotting mechanisms, and our efforts have been focused on isolating the differences between good blood clots (hemostasis) and bad ones (thrombosis), with the ultimate goal to translate this fundamental knowledge into safer blood thinning and ‘clot- busting’ therapies. Aronora’s products take advantage of this new understanding to inhibit only thrombosis without affecting hemostasis, and thus our pioneering antithrombotic drugs should have limited to no bleeding side effects.

Q. In your opinion, what does the local bio-ecosystem need more of? Less?
From our perspective, we need to increase wet lab space, to cultivate experienced executives and large funding rounds, and to establish a deeper track record of successful exits. We need more positive energy and less cynicism around Oregon’s potential to be an important player in biotech and life sciences.

Q. What are the top three things Aronora has learned as a biotechnology company in Oregon?
1) Reach out and seek advice from others in the sector. It’s a very collaborative community. 2) Get your accounting and financial policies in place at the beginning. 3) Hire smart people who believe in the company mission and the technology.

Q. For startups and smaller companies just launching, what advice would you give about how to succeed in this market?
See answer to the above question. Also, spring for a decent website, get company ownership structure in place to keep all parties motivated/happy, and focus some effort on how to cost effectively manufacture your technology at commercial scale.

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