Local News

Liquidia CEO Exits; Venture Capitalist Takes Over At High-Profile RTP Startup

Posted September 29, 2006

— Todd Pope, introduced with great fanfare as the chief executive officer of

Liquidia

when the startup landed $6 million in venture capital financing in June, has left the company.

Steve Nelson, a venture capitalist with WakefieldGroup, is taking over as CEO on an interim basis. Wakefield is one of Liquidia's investors, and Nelson is a member of Liquidia's board.

Nelson held a variety of executive positions before joining Wakefield. He is an active leader among North Carolina's entrepreneurs through several organizations.

Pope is leaving Liquidia to become worldwide president of Cordis Cardiovascular, which is part of Johnson & Johnson.

Liquidia, the latest startup launched by entrepreneur, scientist and professor Joseph DeSimone, recruited Pope away from Boston Scientific to be its CEO. He first was introduced to the Triangle entrepreneurial community at the Council for Entrepreneurial Development's venture capital conference and then received heavy media attention when Liquidia's funding was disclosed.

Pope will remain involved with the company as a board member, Liquidia said in a press release issued late Thursday.

"The potential for Liquidia to introduce paradigm-shifting products in several multibillion-dollar markets is truly unique amongst early stage companies," Pope said in a statement. "I look forward to continued involvement with Liquidia through my active involvement as a board member."

"Todd's broad experience has helped narrow the focus for Liquidia's technology, recruit key talent and position the company for success moving forward," DeSimone said.

Liquidia is one of the state's highest profile startups, due in part to DeSimone's role. A professor of chemistry and chemical engineering at both the University of North Carolina and North Carolina State University, he is an inventor and entrepreneur. DeSimone launched a chain of dry cleaners that did not rely on chemicals. In 1996, he formed Micell Technologies, which focused on using carbon dioxide as a solvent

Wakefield, Firelake Capital Management, Siemens, and private investors W. Lowry Caudill, Alfred Childers and William Starling have invested in Liquidia. Caudill and Childers were founders of Magellan Laboratories.

Pope attended Millbrook High School in Raleigh and is a graduate of UNC.

Pope's most recent position before joining Liquidia was as vice president of global sales and marketing in the neurovascular division of Boston Scientific. He also has worked for Johnson & Johnson.

Liquidia was launched in 2004 and closed on an initial $2.5 million in financing in 2005. Its offices and labs are located in Research Triangle Park.

The company's technology is based on materials known as fluoropolymers that are liquids at room temperature but cure to transparent solids when exposed to lights. Liquidia has developed a material platform technology called Fluorocur, which enables the mass production of precise and uniform micro-sized and nano-sized particles. Fluorocur is based on research done at UNC and NCSU.

Despite losing Pope, Liquidia has added two executives to its management team.

Taking over as chief technology officer is Robert Henn, and the new head of life sciences is Christopher Price.

Henn is a former president of the polymer products division at Gore I.P. Holdings, the producer of Gore-Tex products that are used in fabrics, medical implants and other devices.

"When we looked at the breadth of Liquidia's material platform with the potential to commercialize breakthrough technology in multiple markets, Gore was an obvious benchmark company," Nelson said in a statement. "Bob was a key early architect and sustaining senior leader for the Gore organization."

Price is a former chief executive officer of Nobex, which closed earlier this year after going bankrupt. Price left Nobex last September to take over as executive director of the Piedmont Triad Research Park.

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