Terry Opgenorth of Fort Collins combined his background in the pharmaceutical industry with the task of finding a research and development project for startup incubator CSU Ventures. Opgenorth, vice president and executive director of CSU Ventures, found that though pharmaceuticals developed for humans were tested on companion animals, the products often did not benefit them.
Through a six-year process, Opgenorth, who holds a doctorate in physiology, built a 12-member team and went through the steps of taking an idea to market, launching the first conditionally approved drug for canine lymphoma, Tanovea-CA1. He co-founded the company that developed and produced the drug, VetDC, or Veterinary Emerging Technologies Development Corporation, a veterinary-based startup and science-driven company launched in 2010 in Fort Collins that provides anti-cancer treatments for companion animals.
Opgenorth works part time for CSU Ventures and is executive director of NewCo Launchpad, a program of CSU Ventures that launches startup companies out of Colorado State University. At VetDC, he is a board member and the chief scientific officer, charged with identifying canine cancer treatments by studying the trends and scientific literature.
As Opgenorth became familiar with CSU, he saw that working with CSU Ventures was somewhat similar to his work with Abbott. CSU Ventures, launched in 2007, identifies opportunities for technologies developed at the campus that could be licensed into other companies. Since his time there, Opgenorth helped launch an average of six startups a year and 40 overall.
“I love to start things and build programs. That’s what I’d done for 20 years at Abbott, identifying new opportunities for drug discovery and development and building teams around them,” Opgenorth said. “This, in a way, was a natural extension of that, taking an idea and putting a team around it and creating something that we could make into a reality.”
Opgenorth wanted to target human biotechnology companies whose products may have application to veterinary markets, relying on expertise from CSU’s veterinary teaching hospital to evaluate that potential and consider what might be needed to develop a veterinary version of the product. He and his team originally got licenses to develop a glaucoma device for dogs and a diagnostic system for determining certain bacterial infections in horses.