Drug makes migraines pay through the nose
Norwegian OptiNose and American Avanir Pharmaceuticals license new treatment
In 2013, Avanir Pharmaceuticals, Inc., and Norwegian OptiNose, AS, made an exclusive North American licensing deal to develop OptiNose’s Breath Powered system, a potential treatment for acute migraines. OptiNose received an upfront cash payment of $20 million and was eligible to receive certain shared development costs and up to an additional $90 million in a milestone payment.OptiNose has developed what it describes as bi-directional nasal technology, applying it to existing therapies to make them more effective. The technology was invented by Dr. Per Djupesland, an ear, nose, and throat specialist in Oslo. It uses the natural flow of a patient’s breath to propel medications into the nasal cavity. In early 2016, the product was approved by the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The first model of the drug-delivery device was designed with the encouragement and business experience of the doctor’s wife, Helena Kyttari Djupesland. The first patents were filed, and OptiNose was founded. Helena spent five years at Kværner Energy, where she was vice president of operations. Before that, Helena spent nine years at Storebrand International Reinsurance, the largest Norwegian insurance company, gaining extensive experience in international business, risk evaluations, and negotiating and closing deals. She graduated from the Law School at the University of Athens, earned a master’s in administrative science from the University of Paris, and a master’s in business administration from the Norwegian School of Management. She speaks four languages fluently. She was OptiNose’s CEO for its first 10 years.I was involved in establishing the annual business plan competition Venture Cup that works to discover new entrepreneurs and facilitate the realization of their business idea in Norway. I remember OptiNose very well, as they won the Venture Cup prize the first time around in December 2000. The company was founded in Oslo earlier the same year. The next year, they received the first seed investment for basic prototype development. In 2005, a $15 million investment from New York-based venture capital firm WFD Ventures followed. Five years later, they received $48.5 million from the private equity firm Avista Capital Partners, also based in New York.
Last October, OptiNose was introduced on the Nasdaq. The share price was $16. At the same time, they received $120 million in additional equity financing.
In 2010, OptiNose reincorporated its business in the U.S. and moved its headquarters from Oslo to Yardley, Penn., 32 miles from Philadelphia. Peter Miller was brought in as CEO. Miller accepted a request to join the company’s board in 2008. After becoming familiar with OptiNose’s technology, Miller was convinced of its significant potential. The two founders continued as R&D director and vice president and own 6.95 percent of the shares in the company.
Rasmus Falck is a strong innovation and entrepreneurship advocate. The author of “What do the best do better” and “The board of directors as a resource in SME,” he received his master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He currently lives in Oslo, Norway.
This article originally appeared in the March 9, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.