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.”

2023 Spot­light on the Fu­ture of Drug De­vel­op­ment for Small and Mid-Sized Biotechs

In the context of today’s global economic environment, there is an increasing need to work smarter, faster and leaner across all facets of the life sciences industry.  This is particularly true for small and mid-sized biotech companies, many of which are facing declining valuations and competing for increasingly limited funding to propel their science forward.  It is important to recognize that within this framework, many of these smaller companies already find themselves resource-challenged to design and manage clinical studies themselves because they don’t have large teams or in-house experts in navigating the various aspects of the drug development journey. This can be particularly challenging for the most complex and difficult to treat diseases where no previous pathway exists and patients are urgently awaiting breakthroughs.

Kristen Hege, Bristol Myers Squibb SVP, early clinical development, oncology/hematology and cell therapy (Illustration: Assistant Editor Kathy Wong for Endpoints News)

Q&A: Bris­tol My­er­s' Kris­ten Hege on cell ther­a­py, can­cer pa­tients and men­tor­ing the next gen­er­a­tion

Kristen Hege leads Bristol Myers Squibb’s early oncology discovery program carrying on from the same work at Celgene, which was acquired by BMS in 2019. She’s known for her early work in CAR-T, having pioneered the first CAR-T cell trial for solid tumors more than 25 years ago.

However, the eminent physician-scientist is more than just a drug developer mastermind. She’s also a practicing physician, mother to two young women, an avid backpacker and intersecting all those interests — a champion of young women and people of color in STEM and life sciences.

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Rick Modi, Affinia Therapeutics CEO

Ver­tex-part­nered gene ther­a­py biotech Affinia scraps IPO plans

Affinia Therapeutics has ditched its plans to go public in a relatively closed-door market that has not favored Nasdaq debuts for the drug development industry most of this year. A pandemic surge in 2020 and 2021 opened the doors for many preclinical startups, which caught Affinia’s attention and gave the gene therapy biotech confidence in the beginning days of 2022 to send in its S-1.

But on Friday, Affinia threw in the S-1 towel and concluded now is not the time to step onto Wall Street. The biotech has put out few public announcements since the spring of this year. Endpoints News picked the startup as one of its 11 biotechs to watch last year.

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Pfiz­er and BioN­Tech look to toss Mod­er­na patent suit, call­ing claims 'unen­force­able'

Pfizer and BioNTech took a swing at Moderna’s Covid-19 patent claims in Massachusetts federal court on Monday, calling them “invalid,” “overbroad” and “unenforceable.”

The defendants also filed counterclaims against the Cambridge, MA-based biotech, seeking a dismissal of the case, recovery of court fees and an official judgment invalidating Moderna’s claims.

Moderna sued Pfizer and BioNTech back in August, alleging that the partners’ Covid-19 vaccine Comirnaty copied parts of Moderna’s vaccine technology patented before the pandemic, when it was developing an mRNA vaccine for MERS, another respiratory illness.

Gossamer Bio CEO Faheem Hasnain at Endpoints' #BIO22 panel (J.T. MacMillan Photography for Endpoints News)

Gos­samer’s Fa­heem Has­nain de­fends a round of pos­i­tive PAH da­ta as a clear win. But can these PhII re­sults stand up to scruti­ny?

Gossamer Bio $GOSS posted a statistically significant improvement for its primary endpoint in the key Phase II TORREY trial for lead drug seralutinib on Tuesday morning. But CEO Faheem Hasnain has some explaining to do on the important secondary of the crucial six-minute walk distance test — which will be the primary endpoint in Phase III — as the data on both endpoints fell short of expectations, missing one analyst’s bar on even modest success.

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Jay Lichter, Arialys Therapeutics CEO (Avalon Ventures)

Scoop: Aval­on, MPM back new CNS biotech with sci­en­tif­ic chops from Astel­las

A preclinical central nervous system biotech is in the works in La Jolla, CA, and the drug developer has reeled in capital from a syndicate of investors, Endpoints News has learned.

Arialys Therapeutics filed incorporation documents in the Golden State last December and applied its name for trademark protection with the US Patent and Trademark Office the week prior to that. Paperwork with the SEC also outlines plans to offer up equity in exchange for $55 million.

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Bob Duggan, Summit Therapeutics co-CEO

Bounc­ing from ma­jor set­back, Sum­mit hands out $500M cash for can­cer drug — thanks to a loan from bil­lion­aire CEO

After hitting a dead end with Summit Therapeutics’ lead program, Bob Duggan has found the drug that he believes will usher into a compelling second act. So compelling, in fact, that it involves $500 million cash — and he’s taking money out of his own pocket to fund the deal.

Striking a partnership with Akeso Therapeutics out of China, Summit is bringing in a bispecific antibody that blocks both PD-1 and VEGF called ivonescimab. Akeso, which has a PD-1/CTLA-4 bispecific approved in China, has already taken ivonescimab into multiple clinical trials, including a Phase III in lung cancer.

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Sum­i­to­vant sub­sidiaries En­zy­vant and Al­ta­vant merge in­to com­bined com­pa­ny

Two Sumitovant Biopharma entities are merging under one name, effective immediately.

Enzyvant Therapeutics and Altavant Sciences announced they have merged to form a singular entity focused on developing therapies for patients with rare diseases. The combined company will keep the name Enzyvant and along with clinical development will eventually include in-house manufacturing.

Bill Symonds, the current CEO of both Altavant and Enzyvant, is now CEO of the merged company.

Eu­ro­pean Com­mis­sion lays ground­work to un­wind Il­lu­mi­na's $7B+ Grail merg­er

The European Commission has recommended steps that — though not yet final — would require Illumina to “swiftly” unwind its controversial $7.1 billion Grail buyout.

The Commission delivered a “statement of objections” on Monday, detailing the process Illumina would need to take in divesting Grail, its blood testing spinout launched in 2016. Illumina re-acquired Grail back in August, despite criticism from both the FTC and EU.