Backed by gi­ants, an­tibi­otics up­start Macrolide gets $20M and an ex-No­var­tis ex­ec as CEO

An an­tibi­otics start­up found­ed by the same guy who start­ed boom-and-bust an­tibi­otics com­pa­ny Tetraphase has hauled in $20 mil­lion in new cap­i­tal and a long­time No­var­tis ex­ec­u­tive as its new pres­i­dent and CEO.

Ma­hesh Karande

With cash in hand and a new chief at the helm, the com­pa­ny plans to tack­le some of the most dan­ger­ous su­per­bugs around by tweak­ing an old class of an­tibi­otics.

Wa­ter­town, MA-based Macrolide Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals raised the Se­ries B round from three phar­ma gi­ants, in­clud­ing the ven­ture arms of Glax­o­SmithK­line (SR One), No­var­tis (No­var­tis Ven­ture Fund), and Roche (Roche Ven­tures), among oth­er in­vestors.

Macrolide al­so has a big phar­ma ex­ec­u­tive on board with the re­cruit­ment of Ma­hesh Karande, who spent sev­er­al years hop­ping around the world lead­ing No­var­tis’ in­ter­na­tion­al busi­ness units. He was a VP and on­col­o­gy busi­ness head in the US, pres­i­dent and phar­ma head for Africa and Egypt, and head of strat­e­gy and busi­ness de­vel­op­ment for Asia-Pa­cif­ic, Mid­dle East and Africa. But Karande left No­var­tis last year to join Intar­cia as VP and gen­er­al man­ag­er — a role he left to take the helm at Macrolide.

As its name sug­gests, Macrolide (the com­pa­ny) is fo­cused on macrolides, a class of an­tibi­otics that has been wide­ly used for decades to treat pneu­mo­nia and oth­er bac­te­r­i­al in­fec­tions. The ef­fec­tive­ness of these an­tibi­otics has been neg­a­tive­ly im­pact­ed by bac­te­ria’s frus­trat­ing abil­i­ty to be­come im­mune to drugs.

An­drew My­ers

But Macrolide says its found a way to en­gi­neer a so­lu­tion. The start­up was found­ed on tech from the lab of An­drew My­ers, a Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty chemist. You might rec­og­nize My­ers as the guy who co-found­ed Tetraphase, an an­tibi­otics mak­er that grew to a pub­lic val­u­a­tion of over $1 bil­lion be­fore crash­ing hard fol­low­ing a Phase III flop of its lead an­tibi­ot­ic.

Macrolide has an ex­clu­sive li­cense from My­ers’ lab that gives the start­up ac­cess to tech­nol­o­gy to en­gi­neer syn­thet­ic macrolides from scratch. Macrolide says its tech can ex­pand the ther­a­peu­tic range of these drugs to in­clude not just gram-pos­i­tive in­fec­tions, but al­so gram-neg­a­tive ones — those dan­ger­ous in­fec­tions for which treat­ments are lim­it­ed.

The new fi­nanc­ing round is meant to sup­port work that will back up an IND ap­pli­ca­tion for its lead pro­gram for re­sis­tant gram-neg­a­tive pathogens.

“This po­si­tions Macrolide to fur­ther the pi­o­neer­ing work the team has done to date in ad­vanc­ing new macrolide an­tibi­otics with Gram-neg­a­tive ac­tiv­i­ty,” Karande said in a state­ment. “We be­lieve that ad­vanc­ing first-in-class an­tibi­otics that are ac­tive against lethal mul­ti-drug re­sis­tant bac­te­ria opens the door to a new and mean­ing­ful way to ad­dress the grow­ing pub­lic health is­sue of treat­ment gaps due to an­tibi­ot­ic re­sis­tance.”

Mi­no­ryx and Sper­o­genix ink an ex­clu­sive li­cense agree­ment to de­vel­op and com­mer­cial­ize lerigli­ta­zone in Chi­na

September 23, 2020 – Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai (China) and Mataró, Barcelona (Spain)  

Minoryx will receive an upfront and milestone payments of up to $78 million, as well as double digit royalties on annual net sales 

Sperogenix will receive exclusive rights to develop and commercialize leriglitazone for the treatment of X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy (X-ALD), a rare life-threatening neurological condition

President Trump walks past HHS secretary Alex Azar (Getty Images)

Azar falls in line un­der Trump again. Ex­perts say he's re­in­forc­ing a dark sig­nal sent to the FDA

In the latest incident where Alex Azar has steadfastly taken the side of President Donald Trump over that of the FDA, the HHS secretary was noncommittal this morning when asked if he supports the attempt by his subordinates at the FDA to strengthen guidelines for a vaccine EUA.

Appearing on NBC’s Today Show, the HHS secretary muddied the waters, stating that the guidance that matters is the one that is “actually already out there.”

CDC’s Robert Redfield, NIAID’s Anthony Fauci, Admiral Brett Giroir at HHS, and FDA’s Stephen Hahn prepare to testify at a House hearing on June 23 (Getty)

'Ex­treme­ly po­lit­i­cal' — Trump neuters FDA's at­tempt to strength­en vac­cine EUA

Stephen Hahn went before a Senate committee Wednesday and declared he’s fighting. “Every one of the decisions we have reached has been made by career FDA scientists based on science and data, not politics,” he exclaimed, adding that “FDA will not permit any pressure from anyone to change that. I will fight for science.”

A few hours later, he was undermined by President Donald Trump when a reporter asked if he was okay with stricter vaccine guidelines that the FDA was said to be cooking up. “That has to be approved by the White House. We may or may not approve it. That sounds like a political move,” he decided.

David Berry (Flagship)

Flag­ship's next big tech­no­log­i­cal bet? The cloud

Earlier this month, Flagship announced their big bet on the software half the industry is talking about, launching the AI and machine learning startup. Now, they and a couple other investors are gambling $100 million on a software that much of the public generally thinks of as a cool, IT afterthought: cloud computing.

The idea, says founder and Flagship partner David Berry, is one of scale: The sheer magnitude of biological data that you can store on cloud technology is unprecedented. And that size, when leveraged properly, can allow you to ask questions and form insights that are similarly unprecedented.

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New York governor Andrew Cuomo (AP Images)

An­drew Cuo­mo says New York will un­der­take its own vac­cine re­view process, and wouldn’t rec­om­mend trust­ing the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment

The concerns keep mounting over President Donald Trump’s politicization of the FDA and other federal agencies guiding the development of a safe and effective vaccine. And today, the telegenic New York governor Andrew Cuomo appeared to introduce even more politics into the matter — latest in an ongoing series of incidents that have cast the proudly independent FDA in starkly political terms.

During his daily press conference Cuomo said that the state will review any coronavirus vaccines approved by the federal government, citing a lack of trust of the Trump administration. The announcement comes one day after Trump accused the FDA of making an “extremely political” move in proposing stricter vaccine guidance.

Patrick Enright, Longitude co-founder (Longitude)

As its biotechs hit the pan­dem­ic ex­it, Lon­gi­tude rais­es $585M for new neu­ro, can­cer, ag­ing and or­phan-fo­cused fund

The years have been kind to Longitude Capital. This year, too.

A 2006 spinout of Pequot Capital, its founders started their new firm just four years before the parent company would go under amid insider trading allegations. Their first life sciences fund raised $325 million amid the financial crisis, they added a second for $385 million and then in, 2016, a third for $525 million. In the last few months, the pandemic biotech IPO boom netted several high-value exits from those funds, as Checkmate, Vaxcyte, Inozyme and Poseida all went public.

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Laura Shawver (Silverback Therapeutics)

Fol­low­ing a hefty Se­ries B, Sil­ver­back Ther­a­peu­tics quick­ly pulls in $85M for 'an im­por­tant growth phase'

Months after reeling in a $78 million Series B round, Silverback Therapeutics has hooked an even larger Series C.

The Seattle-based company announced Wednesday that it netted $85 million from a slate of new and previous investors. The quick boost could be a sign that an IPO is on the way.

In an email, Silverback CEO Laura Shawver told me she was “not able to provide any additional comments about Silverback” beyond what was shared in the company’s news release. In the prepared statement, she said the company is at “an important growth phase.”

Covid-19 roundup: Op­er­a­tion Warp Speed's 7th vac­cine is live at­ten­u­at­ed; Small biotech touts big suc­cess where gi­ants have failed

Operation Warp Speed is stacking its vaccine portfolio with a “TBD” new candidate: a live attenuated vaccine that can be administered in a single dose, potentially as an oral formulation rather than an injection.

Sound familiar?

That could be because the unannounced candidate appears to match the profile of an inoculation being developed by Merck, according to Bloomberg, which first reported the development based on a presentation by Moncef Slaoui.

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On­ly five months af­ter a Se­ries A launch, Taysha goes pub­lic with $157M IPO

As has been the trend in 2020, Taysha Gene Therapies has become the latest biotech to make a quick ascent from a small, privately-funded company to enjoying its very own Nasdaq ticker.

The Dallas-based biotech raised $157 million for its IPO after pricing shares at $20 apiece Thursday, the high-point of its expected range. Initially pegging $100 million in financing, Taysha offered a little less than 8 million shares and will trade under the $TSHA symbol.

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