Calvert Holdings, a Cary, N.C., financial and healthcare conglomerate, has formed a new venture-capital fund that cuts out the middleman — in the case, a venture-financed biotech or pharma firm — by acquiring drug candidates and running them through early-stage human trials itself.

Calvert BioCapital will essentially act like a specialty pharmaceutical company as it looks for abandoned or failed drug candidates it can buy and push into the development process. This is often a fairly unexciting business model, as it mainly involves sorting through the discards pile at other companies or university laboratories. It’s never been entirely clear to me exactly how doing that makes economic sense — most drugs are discarded for pretty good reasons — but for some reason the notion that a motivated outsider can turn up diamonds in the rough refuses to die.

The fund will contract out the running of clinical trials to third-party companies, and if all goes well, will re-license successfully tested drugs to other pharma/biotechs. The fund may also establish new biotech firms to take over drug development. Michael Recny, formerly a vice president at Trimeris, will serve as co-founder and managing partner at Calvert BioCapital.