On Monday, as Circassia’s (LSE: $CIR) shares shriveled in value in the wake of a Phase III failure, a pair of UK biotechs raised $123 million to pursue their clinical dreams, underscoring the potential the sector still has in garnering significant sums for therapeutic development work.
One of those companies is Manchester-based F2G, which garnered $60 million to support its development of a new antifungal aimed at the 10% to 30% of patients who don’t respond to the current treatments available. (The other is Verona, a listed company that raised $63 million.)
New investor Sectoral Asset Management stepped in as the lead, with participation from Novo A/S, Aisling Capital and Brace Pharma Capital as well as existing investors Advent Life Sciences LLP, Novartis Venture Fund, Sunstone Capital and Merifin Capital.
That’s enough money to complete the Phase I IV and oral-followup study, run a small PK study and then launch a Phase III next year, recruiting more than 200 patients and testing their antifungal (F901318) against standard of care in reducing the mortality rate for invasive aspergillosis.
“Without treatment the mortality rate is 90 to 100%,” says CEO Ian Nicholson. “With current agents it’s 10 to 30%, so the mortality rate is pretty high, combined with growing resistance” to the existing treatments.
If everything stays on track, F2G – which started out as a genomics company and then morphed into an antifungal-focused biotech with its own internal pipeline – will get started on the late-stage study next year and expects to have pivotal data in 2019.
There has been some growing interest in antifungals as resistance to current therapies threatens more and more people. Jeff Stein started Cidara with that in mind. But while it’s a viable field, with commercial potential, this small group of players hasn’t attracted the kind of red-hot interest that, say, immuno-oncology companies have seen.
A difficult funding environment in the UK hasn’t helped, says Nicholson, who’s now cautiously exploring a couple of potential futures for F2G. In one scenario, he says, he could go through the IPO route, looking to recruit a speciality sales force after navigating regulatory groups on both sides of the Atlantic. Or the company could be bought out.
For now, the semi-virtual staff of 15 has the cash on hand to find out much more about their lead program’s efficacy and safety. And they can take some time exploring the future.
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