Concert Pharmaceuticals

How this company keeps the lights on while awaiting FDA approval

Roger Tung
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 Photo Credit: Courtesy Company

Concert Pharmaceuticals makes drugs better--literally. The Lexington, Massachusetts–based company takes existing pharmaceuticals and replaces their hydrogen atoms with an isotope called deuterium. The purpose? The heavier deuterium appears to give the medication an effectiveness boost and to reduce side effects, allowing it to stay longer in the patient's system while maintaining its disease-fighting purpose.

Following through has required patience from CEO Roger Tung, who founded Concert in 2006: While clinical trials on a number of drugs have shown promise, the company is still waiting for its first FDA home run. It takes more than a decade, on average, for a medication to go from inception to market--and fewer than one out of 10 makes the final cut. "There are very few businesses as capital intensive and as long to get to product as pharmaceuticals," Tung says. In the meantime, Concert brings in bucks via licensing agreements with other drug companies. Vertex Pharma­ceuticals, for example, recently paid Concert $160 million for the right to take over a cystic fibrosis drug called CTP-656. Tung says his company will use the money to move forward with a treatment for alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss. --Helaine Olen