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Precision Therapeutics renamed Helomics, receives $60M investment | TribLIVE.com
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Precision Therapeutics renamed Helomics, receives $60M investment

by ALEX NIXON
| Wednesday, November 12, 2014 1:57 p.m.

Precision Therapeutics, a South Side-based company that performs individualized diagnostic tests for cancer patients, replaced its chief executive and board of directors, and changed its name to avoid confusion that it was a pharmaceutical company.

The company, which was renamed Helomics Corp., announced Wednesday that it has raised $60 million as part of a recapitalization by HealthCare Royalty Partners, a $3 billion investment firm in Stamford, Conn., to help execute a strategy for growth. A recapitalization often involves providing money to restructure a company’s finances and allow other investors to exit.

Neil Campbell, who replaced Sean McDonald as CEO, characterized the changes as a “maturation of the enterprise.” McDonald last month left the post he held since 2001 and could not be reached for comment. Campbell declined to discuss circumstances leading to McDonald’s departure.

His appointment was not the only change in leadership. The company named Dane Saglio as chief financial officer and Ed Whigham as vice president of sales. It said it replaced the entire board of directors.

It’s important that the situation be “put in the proper positive light,” Campbell told the Tribune-Review. “It’s not an upheaval at all.”

The company changed its name because many people incorrectly thought that Precision Therapeutics was developing cancer drugs, Cambbell said. Having the word therapeutic in its name “implies that we’re a drug company,” he said. “And we’re not.”

Helomics analyzes live cancer cells and a cancer patient’s genetics to recommend tailored treatment to affect cancer growing in that patient, Campbell said.

Campbell said some of the company’s investors remain but declined to discuss whether any were bought out by HealthCare Royalty Partners, which he described as Helomics’ “largest institutional investor.” He said most terms of the deal were confidential.

Several of Precision’s former board members are partners in venture capital firms that had invested in the company, including Jeff Crisan of Bain Capital Ventures in Boston, David Hirsch of Longitude Capital in Greenwich, Conn., Joel Adams of Adams Capital Management in Sewickley, and Sean Sebastian of Birchmere Ventures in the Strip District. They could not be reached.

Campbell called Precision a “diamond-in-the-rough company” because it has significant scientific and technical assets, and is in the burgeoning industry of personalized medicine. It needed help executing a strategy for growth, he said.

“The marketplace for individualizing medicine is rapidly growing,” he said. “With an even greater strategic vision and new management team, we believe Helomics is uniquely positioned to be the next-generation in personalized health care for patients with cancer and their physicians.”

The company intends to strike deals to acquire or license related technology from companies and universities, he said, and will put more money into its own research and development.

Campbell has more than 25 years experience in science and technology companies, including as CEO of SuperNova Diagnostics in Washington, D.C., CEO of EntreMed Pharmaceuticals in Rockville, Md., and as general partner in Endeavour Capital, a private investment firm in Washington.

Helomics employs about 150 people at facilities in Lawrenceville and South Side. Campbell said the company will remain “firmly planted” in Pittsburgh and intends to grow operations here, though he said he did not have details of any expansion plans.

Alex Nixon is a Trib Total Media staff writer.

Reach him at 412-320-7928 or anixon@tribweb.com.

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