Colin Goddard, chief of start-up Coferon Inc., led OSI Pharmaceuticals,...

Colin Goddard, chief of start-up Coferon Inc., led OSI Pharmaceuticals, a top local biotech firm, until it was sold for $4 billion. The new effort could lead to “a whole new class of drugs,” he says. Credit: Handout

Stony Brook-based Coferon Inc., a fledgling bioscience company led by the former chief executive of OSI Pharmaceuticals, has received $12 million in venture capital funding to develop technology for creating stronger drugs to fight cancer and other diseases.

The backing comes as Colin Goddard has agreed to assume full-time leadership of the start-up, marking his return to Long Island biotech two years after OSI was sold to a Japanese company for $4 billion.

Local academic and business leaders have long pushed to build a bioscience hub here to replace high-tech jobs once provided by the aerospace industry. With Goddard as chief executive and chairman, they hope Coferon will be a key player in that effort.

"His experience is just tremendous," said Anil Dhundale, executive director of the Long Island High Technology Incubator in Stony Brook.

Coferon, founded in 2009, has developed a method to get oral drugs to penetrate cells in higher doses than current pharmaceuticals. The result could be more potent treatments for a wide spectrum of conditions including autoimmune diseases and drug-resistant strains of bacteria.

"If it is successful in its greatest potential, this could be a whole new class of drugs," said Goddard, whose former OSI colleague Lee Arnold is Coferon's chief scientist.

The funding from Hatteras Venture Partners of Durham, N.C., MedImmune Ventures of Gaithersburg, Md., and Ascent Biomedical Ventures of Manhattan allows the company to improve the technology, pioneered at Weill-Cornell Medical College in Manhattan and Purdue University in Indiana.

With help from the Center for Biotechnology, Coferon has also forged an agreement to work with researchers at Stony Brook University.

Initially, the company will be based at the school's high-tech incubator.

Goddard, who has been Coferon's part-time chairman for about one year, ran OSI, in Farmingdale, for more than a decade, building it into one of LI's most successful biotech companies, with $428 million in revenue in 2009.

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