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Cancer drug firm wins investment.

Byline: Sherri Buri McDonald The Register-Guard

Cascade Prodrug Inc., a Eugene drug development company using technology licensed from the University of Oregon, won the $200,000 investment prize Thursday in the fourth annual Willamette Angel Conference.

"We think it's a great investment opportunity and a high-potential Oregon company," said Skip Rung, president of ONAMI, a 2012 Willamette Angel Conference investor. ONAMI is one of Oregon's Signature Research Centers, a collaboration between Oregon universities, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, industry and the investment community.

Cascade Prodrug was one of five companies that gave a 10-minute pitch on Thursday to a group of 30 investors - the "angels" of the conference.

A second group of five companies, in earlier stages of development, gave 3.25-minute pitches directly to the audience of roughly 220 people, who chose the winner of a $7,000 prize consisting of $1,000 cash, plus professional accounting, marketing, legal and other services. The audience picked Coyle, a Corvallis maker of wood and cork bicycle helmets, which captured 31 percent of the 88 votes cast.

Eugene waffle shop Off The Waffle finished in second place with 24 percent of the votes. Off the Waffle is seeking to expand into a chain and eventually franchise its restaurants, which serve distinctive Lige-style waffles.

Now in its fourth year, the annual Willamette Angel Conference aims to match investors with startup and early stage companies. In those four years, the conference has invested more than $700,000 in regional early stage companies, said Dave Hauser, president of the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce.

"And more importantly, we're creating this pool of active angel investors," he said.

Even companies that don't win the investment prize get valuable exposure, Hauser said.

"There's the direct investment from the conference and direct exposure to other angels in the room," he said, adding that last year, Eugene brewery Blue Dog Mead found an investor at the conference following the company's "quick pitch."

"The conference for us is a means to an end," Hauser said. It brings out angel investors and entrepreneurs from around the state, he said, "so it's an important part of our efforts to create an environment that supports entrepreneurs."

The day's big winner, Cascade Prodrug, was founded in September 2009 by biotech veterans Allan Cochrane and Augie Sick. The company owns technology to modify well-known cancer drugs to make them safer and more effective, Cochrane said.

Most cancer drugs are highly toxic. Cascade Prodrug's technology is like a switch that turns the drug off until it reaches the low-oxygen environment of a cancerous tumor. That is the trigger that switches the modified drug back on, so it can kill the tumor without damaging other parts of the body.

Cascade Prodrug doesn't plan to manufacture or sell compounds under its own label. Rather, it would partner with parent drug manufacturers, such as Lilly and Pfizer, which would pay Cascade Prodrug upfront fees, royalties and other payments in exchange for commercial rights, company officials said.

Cascade Prodrug provides a solution for the $48 billion anti-cancer therapeutics market, company officials said. An estimated 25 million people are living with cancer, and 12 million new cancer cases are diagnosed each year. Both figures are expected to double by 2020, Cascade officials said.

The company is not expecting to generate any revenues until 2014, when revenues are projected at $5 million. Revenues are expected to double to $10 million in 2015, the company estimates.

Cochrane said that $800,000 had been committed in its Series A fundraising, with the Oregon Angel Fund as its lead investor.

Another Eugene tech startup, Vizme, also gave a 10-minute pitch.

The company, which is based in the UO's Riverfront Research Park, says it has developed a time- and cost-effective way to make Web content more engaging and dynamic for social media marketing. It does this by simplifying the integration of customized HTML5 content. HTML5 is a programming language for the Web.

One other Eugene company,, participated in the short pitch competition with Coyle and Off the Waffle. has developed a Web-based "business card" that ties into an inexpensive, easy-to-use customer relationship management system, the company said. The technology works on a variety of mobile devices.

The Willamette Angel Conference is a joint venture between the Eugene and Corvallis-Benton chambers of commerce, and alternates each year between Eugene and Corvallis.
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Geographic Code:1U9OR
Date:May 11, 2012
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