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.”

Roivant par­lays a $450M chunk of eq­ui­ty in biotech buy­out, grab­bing a com­pu­ta­tion­al group to dri­ve dis­cov­ery work

New Roivant CEO Matt Gline has crafted an all-equity upfront deal to buy out a Boston-based biotech that has been toiling for several years now at building a supercomputing-based computational platform to design new drugs. And he’s adding it to the Erector set of science operations that are being built up to support their network of biotech subsidiaries with an eye to growing the pipeline in a play to create a new kind of pharma company.

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Tar­get­ing a Po­ten­tial Vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty of Cer­tain Can­cers with DNA Dam­age Re­sponse

Every individual’s DNA is unique, and because of this, every patient responds differently to disease and treatment. It is astonishing how four tiny building blocks of our DNA – A, T, C, G – dictate our health, disease, and how we age.

The tricky thing about DNA is that it is constantly exposed to damage by sources such as ultraviolet light, certain chemicals, toxins, and even natural biochemical processes inside our cells.¹ If ignored, DNA damage will accumulate in replicating cells, giving rise to mutations that can lead to premature aging, cancer, and other diseases.

CEO Fred Aslan (Artiva)

NK cell ther­a­py play­er Arti­va makes some more noise, pulling in $120M Se­ries B less than a month af­ter Mer­ck deal

Not even one month after Big Pharma took notice of Artiva when Merck signed a collaboration worth nearly $2 billion in milestones, the off-the-shelf NK cell biotech already has its next big fundraise.

Artiva returns from the venture well Friday with a $120 million Series B round, money they will use to get their first program into the clinic and to file INDs for another two candidates. The raise marks the latest development in a rapidly expanding footprint for Artiva, which, in addition to the Merck deal last month, has now raised almost $200 million since its Series A last June.

Fol­low biotechs go­ing pub­lic with the End­points News IPO Track­er

The Endpoints News team is continuing to track IPO filings for 2021, and we’ve designed a new tracker page for the effort.

Check it out here: Biopharma IPOs 2021 from Endpoints News

You’ll be able to find all the biotechs that have filed and priced so far this year, sortable by quarter and listed by newest first. As of the time of publishing on Feb. 25, there have already been 16 biotechs debuting on Nasdaq so far this year, with an additional four having filed their S-1 paperwork.

With dust set­tled on ac­tivist at­tack, Lau­rence Coop­er leaves Zio­pharm to a new board

Laurence Cooper has done his part.

In the five years since he left a tenured position at Houston’s MD Anderson Cancer Center to become CEO of Boston-based Ziopharm, he’s steered the small-cap immunotherapy player through patient deaths in trials, clinical holds, short attacks and, most recently, an activist attack on the board.

So when the company has “fantastic news” like an IND clearance for a TCR T cell therapy program, he’s ready to pass on the baton.

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Covid-19 roundup: Mer­ck­'s $356M sup­ply deal on hold as FDA asks for more da­ta; FDA ap­proves Pfiz­er/BioN­Tech vac­cine stor­age at stan­dard freez­er temps

Merck is pushing back plans to supply the US government with a Covid-19 drug after the FDA asked for more data to support an emergency use authorization.

The antibody, MK-7110, had looked promising in a Phase III study conducted by OncoImmune before Merck came along and bought the biotech for $425 million. At the interim analysis, investigators looked at data from 203 patients and concluded that a single dose of the drug cut the risk of death or respiratory failure by more than 50% among severe patients. And those taking the drug had a 60% higher chance of improvement in clinical status compared to placebo.

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Fatty liver conceptual image, 3D illustration showing fatty liver silhouette made from micrograph of liver steatosis (Shutterstock)

The path to NASH: un­der­stand­ing the role of se­vere obe­si­ty in a com­plex, mul­ti-sys­tem dis­ease

Biotech Voices is a collection of exclusive opinion editorials from some of the leading voices in biopharma on the biggest industry questions today. Think you have a voice that should be heard? Reach out to senior editors Kyle Blankenship and Amber Tong.

We often think a person’s transition from a healthy to a diseased state is binary. But that’s often not the case. In reality, the onset of a disease is not something that occurs overnight, and the majority lie on a continuum that is impacted by a multitude of factors. Some of these factors are in a patient’s control. Others are not.

This is the case in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), two of the most complex diseases that “live” on this proverbial continuum. The clinical onset of NAFLD — and ultimately NASH — is a complex process that is closely related to obesity, insulin resistance and impaired adipose tissue metabolism.

Doug Ingram (file photo)

Why not? Sarep­ta’s third Duchenne MD drug sails to ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval

Sarepta may be running into some trouble with its next-gen gene therapy approach to Duchenne muscular dystrophy. But when it comes to antisense oligonucleotides, the well-trodden regulatory path is still leading straight to an accelerated approval for casimersen, now christened Amondys 45.

We just have to wait until 2024 to find out if it works.

Amondys 45’s approval was unceremonious, compared to its two older siblings. There was no controversy within the FDA over approving a drug based on a biomarker rather than clinical benefit, setting up a powerful precedent that still haunts acting FDA commissioner Janet Woodcock as biotech insiders weighed her potential permanent appointment; no drama like the FDA issuing a stunning rejection only to reverse its decision and hand out an OK four months later, which got more complicated after the scathing complete response letter was published; no anxious tea leaf reading or heated arguments from drug developers and patient advocates who were tired of having corticosteroids as their loved ones’ only (sometimes expensive) option.

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Ken Frazier, Merck CEO (Bess Adler/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Mer­ck takes a swing at the IL-2 puz­zle­box with a $1.85B play for buzzy Pan­dion and its au­toim­mune hope­fuls

When Roger Perlmutter bid farewell to Merck late last year, the drugmaker perhaps best known now for sales giant Keytruda signaled its intent to take a swing at early-stage novelty with the appointment of discovery head Dean Li. Now, Merck is signing a decent-sized check to bring an IL-2 moonshot into the fold.

Merck will shell out roughly $1.85 billion for Pandion Pharmaceuticals, a biotech hoping to gin up regulatory T cells (Tregs) to treat a range of autoimmune disorders, the drugmaker said Thursday.

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