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Robert Nowinski

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About Robert Nowinski

Dr. Robert Nowinski has founded six biotechnology companies. He subsequently brought four of these companies public through an IPO financing. He was the first employee in each company and also held the executive position(s) of CEO and/or the Chairman of the Board. In each business he set the direction, acquired the initial technology, recruited key management and provided oversight for the research programs. Dr. Robert Nowinski also conducted private and public financings of up to $130 million for each company.

Three of the public companies have been acquired by major pharmaceutical companies; Genetic Systems in 1987 for $310 million by Bristol-Myers; PathoGenesis in 2000 for $660 million by Chiron/Novartis; and Icos in 2006 for $2.2 billion by Eli Lilly. The fourth public company, VaxGen, is traded on NASDAQ. Collectively, these companies have developed and marketed eight diagnostic tests and two therapeutic drugs with annual sales exceeding $2.0 billion.

Robert Nowinski received his Ph.D. in immunology from the Sloan-Kettering Institute in 1971. From 1971 to 1975 he was an assistant professor of oncology at the University of Wisconsin. From 1975 through 1981, he was an associate professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Washington. He also was a founding scientist and head of the Virology Program of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. From 1981 through 1982, Robert Nowinski was a professor of microbiology at the UW and a member of the FHCRC. His academic research concerned cancer-causing retroviruses, as well as antibody treatments for cancer and antibodies for the diagnosis of sexually-transmitted diseases.

In 1981, Dr. Robert Nowinski began a second career in the biotechnology industry when he founded Genetic Systems Corp. in Seattle. Genetic Systems conducted an IPO financing within one month of its formation. The company developed diagnostic products and treatments for infectious diseases and cancer. From 1981 through 1985,Robert Nowinski was the company’s chairman and CEO.

Genetic Systems developed the first rapid test for Chlamydia, the most prevalent sexually-transmitted disease in humans. This test decreased the average time of diagnosis from 21 days to 45 minutes, lowered the cost of diagnosis from $150 to $4.50 and expanded the U.S. market from 150,000 tests per year to an estimated 20 million. In collaboration with the Institut Pasteur, Genetic Systems then developed the most accurate blood test for HIV within the first generation of HIV diagnostics.
In 1983, within the structure of Genetic Systems, Dr. Robert Nowinski founded the subsidiary Oncogen LP, dedicated solely to cancer diagnostics. Oncogen, located in the Genetic Systems Building, was co-owned and solely financed by Syntex Corp. In 1985, Genetic Systems and Syntex each sold one-third of their interests to Bristol-Myers Corp. and the mandate of Oncogen was expanded to include cancer therapeutics.
In 1986, Dr. Robert Nowinski initiated and managed the merger of Genetic Systems and Oncogen LP into Bristol-Myers through a pooling of interests valued at $310 million. Dr. Robert Nowinski was appointed corporate vice president for New Technology at Bristol-Myers and chairman of the new Genetic Systems Division. At that time he relocated from Seattle to the corporate headquarters of Bristol-Myers in New York.
In 1989, Dr. Robert Nowinski returned to Seattle and founded Icos Corp.  Dr. Robert Nowinski served as CEO of Icos from 1989 to 1991. In 1991, he brought Icos public. The company focused on inflammation and novel methods for drug discovery. Icos developed the drug Cialis for treating erectile dysfunction. Eli Lilly markets Cialis, with annual sales exceeding $1.2 billion. In 2006, Icos was acquired by E. Lilly for $2.2 billion.

In 1992, Dr. Robert Nowinski founded PathoGenesis. The company focused on the cause and treatment of chronic illnesses. Dr. Robert Nowinski served as chairman of PathoGenesis from 1992 to 1995 and as chairman emeritus for several years thereafter. In 1993, he brought PathoGenesis public. In 1997, PathoGenesis received FDA approval to market an aerosolized form of tobramycin, or TOBI, for treating cystic fibrosis. In addition, research within PathoGenesis identified HerpesVirus 6 as a primary causative agent of multiple sclerosis. In August 2000, PathoGenesis was acquired by Chiron Corp. for $660 million. TOBI is now the leading treatment for cystic fibrosis; annual sales exceed $600 million. Chiron was subsequently acquired by Novartis.
In 1995, Dr. Robert Nowinski founded VaxGen. VaxGen develops preventive vaccines for infectious diseases. He served as VaxGen’s chairman and CEO until 2000. Dr. Robert Nowinski brought VaxGen public in 1998. VaxGen completed the first Phase 3 trial of an HIV vaccine, or AIDSVAX. AIDSVAX was tested in 8,500 volunteers on three continents. The trial, completed in January 2003, reported that the vaccine was ineffective. Although 100% of vaccine-recipients developed antibodies, the rate of HIV infection was similar in the vaccinated and placebo groups. VaxGen has since developed vaccines against anthrax and smallpox.  

In 2000, Dr. Robert Nowinski founded and became chairman and CEO of Primal Inc. Primal, based in Seattle, develops products for behavioral disorders, including those that address disorders in appetite, sexuality, mood, pain and addiction. The company focuses on gene knock-out technology in mice and the biology of G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs), the targets for over 45% of today’s pharmaceuticals. Primal was co-founded with Dr. Linda Buck, the winner of the 2005 Nobel Prize for Medicine. Primal was the first to describe the full complement of 475 GPCR genes in humans and has within its patent portfolio claims for the entire family of GPCRs as potential drug targets. Primal is currently in the business of developing new drugs to GPCRs.

In 2008, Dr. Robert Nowinski  moved to New York and founded ContraFect Corporation.

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Robert Nowinski at
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