Vital Signs: Edward Rudnic's Exit Interview

Welcome to Kendra Marr's new blog-in-a-blog on the Washington area's biotech and health care scene. We're calling it Vital Signs.

By Kendra Marr

If you are looking for the former chief executive of MiddleBrook Pharmaceuticals these days, chances are you'll find Edward M. Rudnic golfing somewhere in California, far removed from the helm of the Germantown biotech he founded nine years ago.


Middlebrook founder. File photo.

Sept. 4 was his last day, and a busy one it was:

At 8:30 a.m. MiddleBrook's board met to vote on accepting an outside investment of $100 million from Equity Group Investments, a deal that stipulated a change in top management.

Ten minutes later, the board approved the transaction, and it installed John S. Thievon, a former senior executive at Adams Respiratory Therapeutics with an knack for drug commercialization, as MiddleBrook's new chief executive.

By 1 p.m. Equity Group had wired MiddleBrook $100 million.

"Then it was over," Rudnic said. "I just went around and said goodbye to everyone and left. It was a very bittersweet moment, especially when you've built this up from the ground. I was the first and only employee at one point. I built it up, took it public and got patents on the technology I conceived."

Rudnic said he couldn't comment on why the board decided to go with Equity Group's investment, instead of continuing its search for a buyer for the entire company. Many in the biotech community have called Rudnic with congratulatory messages, calling it a successful exit.

When the deal closed, Rudnic entered a two-year consulting agreement with MiddleBrook for $3,000 per day or $1,500 per half-day, plus travel expenses. The company also agreed to give him 100,000 shares of common stock, after he finishes his consulting gig, which can be renewed a year.

For now Rudnic is unwinding in California -- and celebrating his 25th wedding anniversary with Pebble Beach golf and Napa Valley wine.

By the end of the year, he vows to be back in biotech. And back in Washington.

"We made a good life here," he said. "We like the area and have made fantastic business contacts here. It would be a waste to throw that all away."

Since launching MiddleBrook, Rudnic has become a pillar of Maryland's biotech industry. Name a biotech task force, meeting or council, and he's probably there lending a hand.

Though he's discussed about several projects, Rudnic says he won't commit to his next venture until after this overdue vacation.

"It's kind of a grind being a public CEO and when you have the opportunity to recharge your batteries, you have to take a little time off."

When he does, it will most likely be on the operating side of a startup. Rallying a team of scientists to discover and create new products is what Rudnic does best.

At MiddleBrook, he developed time-release technology to deliver medicine in stages. Amoxicillin is typically taken three or four times a day. Moxatag, MiddleBrook's recently approved strep throat treatment, packs three time-released bursts of medicine into one pill.

At Rockville's Pharmathene, which was acquired by Shire Pharmaceuticals Group of Britain in 1997, Rudnic was the lead inventor on Carbatrol, which treats epilepsy, and co-inventor on Adderall XR, one of the most prescribed brands of ADHD medication.

There's only one guarantee for his future career: Rudnic, who once worked for Schering-Plough and Bristol-Myers Squibb, is not going back to Big Pharma -- which he dubs a "brontosaurus on barbiturates, they just move so slowly."

"When I go back to visit these companies to get deals done, my skin starts to crawl," he said. "I can't take it."

MiddleBrook's first new board meeting took place while Rudnic was in California. Thievon was expected to present a detailed plan on how he intends to spend the $100 million influx.
The former and current chief executives have been in constant touch, talking about MiddleBrook's different teams and projects.

"I'm pretty clear that if they need me, I'll be there in 15 minutes," Rudnic said. "If they don't need me, I shouldn't be around. They established new CEO. He needs the freedom and authority to operate without me being in his hair."

By Dan Beyers  |  September 12, 2008; 11:45 AM ET  | Category:  Vital Signs
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