When we last checked in with Chris Cashman, he was making a pitch to the angel investors in Philadelphia's Robin Hood Ventures ["Mr. Cashman, You're On," July 2005]. Cashman was trying to persuade Robin Hood to invest about $500,000 in Protez Pharmaceuticals, his Malvern, Pennsylvania, start-up. Protez was developing several promising antibiotics used to treat life-threatening bacterial infections. Seventeen of the 27 Robin Hood members invested in Protez.
In June, Cashman's company became Robin Hood's biggest exit to date. Novartis agreed to buy Protez in a deal worth as much as $400 million. Protez will get $100 million up front and earn up to $300 million more if it hits certain clinical milestones. Robin Hood members could ultimately reap as much as 15 times their investment. Cashman says the sale occurred sooner than he thought it would. Unlike many in the often tight-lipped pharmaceutical sector, he had been keeping the Big Pharma community up to date on his company's progress. Several players expressed interest, and Novartis completed the deal right after Protez's lead compound started Phase II trials in May. For now, Cashman will remain CEO of Protez, which will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of Novartis. Over the long term, he says, "we'll see how we mesh with the mighty Novartis."