Cheminformatics company Synthematix has shuffled top executives and brought in more financing as its growth accelerates.
Steve Jones is now at the helm of the four-year-old company, replacing co-founder Clay Thorp as chief executive. Thorp moves into the role of board chairman.
Jones founded systems integrator Trifolium six years ago and still sits on that company’s board. But he says he was looking for a better growth opportunity than the one he anticipates for Raleigh-based Trifolium, so he joined Synthematix six months ago as chief technology officer and discussed the possibility of succeeding Thorp over time.
“Trifolium was clobbered by the dot-com bubble burst,” he says. “I’m more of a business growth person, and I didn’t see a good pathway to growth there. It’s more in a survival and maintenance mode.”
Synthematix, meanwhile, is revving up its growth engine, providing its database software for archiving chemical reactions to pharmaceutical giants like GlaxoSmithKline and smaller firms like Durham-based Inspire Pharmaceuticals. Jones says a growing number of biotechnology and pharmaceutical customers, such as Bristol-Myers Squibb and Vertex Pharmaceuticals, are evaluating the software for potential use, and the company recently signed a distribution partnership with Toronto-based ACD Labs, which develops analytic software tools.
Company officials don’t provide financial information, but Jones and Thorp say the firm is cash-flow positive and revenue continues to trend upward.
New funding round
Although Jones has spent his career in the IT services sector, having worked at Nortel Networks and as vice president of IT for Atlanta-based health care software firm Medaphis before starting Trifolium, he says the life sciences industry slant of Synthematix doesn’t faze him.
“It all revolves around building systems for customers, and at some point, it doesn’t matter what industry you’re in,” he says. “From working with (chief information officers) in the past, I know that’s how they think, and I want us to expand how we view this company. We’re not just supporting (a customer’s) chemists; we’re supporting the work flow of their entire company.”
To aid its growth, Synthematix recently closed on $1.25 million in second-round venture financing from Durham-based Catalysta Partners – Thorp is a general partner with the consulting and investment firm – and angel investors. More might be added to the round in the next couple of months, Thorp says.
“It was kind of like putting frogs into a box,” he says of the effort to line up the deal. “Every time you get one in, some jump out. We just decided to close on what we had so we could move on, but we do have a number of people we’re still talking to about investing.”
Jones says the money will help Synthematix increase its sales and customer service efforts while continuing to refine its software. He expects to add about a half dozen people to the company’s 15-person payroll.
Time for BioVista
Thorp says he has been looking to shed responsibility for daily operations at Synthematix for about a year so he can spend more time building BioVista, a new venture capital fund dedicated to financing later-stage biotech and biomanufacturing companies.
BioVista’s partners are trying to line up $60 million to match a $30 million commitment to the fund from Golden LEAF, the foundation charged with distributing half of North Carolina’s proceeds from the national tobacco litigation settlement. Thorp declines to put a timetable on a closing for the fund.