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Entrepreneur Completes Job For Pharmaceutical Company, Pocketing $229 Million

Here’s a success story about a former employee of one of the world’s large drug companies that reconfirms the power of persistence and entrepreneurialism.

In the $600 billion drug industry, major companies are under intense pressure to make hefty profits. So they shy away from the long shots, which is what Novartis did when it gave up on a blood-pressure drug (aliskiren) in the mid-1990s.

When the company decided it wasn’t economical to continue the expensive research, Alice Huxley, a 49-year-old who had a doctorate in biochemistry, and who had been working on the drug’s research, quit her job at Novartis.

Believing she could solve the chemical riddles that would lead to a blockbuster success, Huxley struck a deal with Novartis to set up her own company and take rights to the drug with her. Novartis’s own start-up venture fund gave Dr. Huxley $3 million in seed capital, for her new company Speedel Holding, reserving the right to buy the drug back.

Eventually Dr. Huxley and her staff solved the chemical riddles, and her company went public in 2005. Her 22% stake is now worth $229 million. Speedel Holding is presently looking for other experimental medicines to buy, hoping to repeat the success story.