When AstraZeneca spun out its struggling antibiotics unit a few years back, the tech — and a much smaller team — was deposited into a company called Entasis. Now, that upstart has filed for an $86 million IPO to push a few of its product candidates through human trials.
The tiny Waltham company is only a fraction of what the pharma giant’s antibiotics effort used to be. At one point, the unit had 175 staffers. But it was pared down over the years until Entasis launched in 2015 with only 21 employees. Today, according to its prospectus, it employs 34.
Entasis has a pipeline of clinical-stage product candidates meant to treat infections caused by multi-drug resistant Gram-negative bacteria. Its lead product, ETX2514, inhibits one of the most common forms of bacterial resistance: b-lactamase enzymes, so named because of their ability to inactivate b-lactam antibiotics, one of the most commonly used classes of antibiotics. Entasis has another pipeline therapy, ETX0282, that inhibits the same enzymes.
“By blocking this resistance mechanism, these product candidates, when administered in combination with b-lactam antibiotics, are designed to restore the efficacy of those antibiotics,” the company said in its prospectus.
Entasis plans to use its IPO funds to advance ETX2514 through a Phase III trial, and to move 0282 through a multi-part Phase I. The rest of the cash will go toward other R&D and general corporate purposes.
The company will list on the Nasdaq under the ticker symbol $ETTX.
The antibiotics R&D field has been rife with hurdles, and newcomers like Zavante and Cidara have failed to make big waves like once hoped. In fact, Zavante fizzled into an acquisition less than three years after its launch. And Cidara suffered a Phase II trial flop last year that dropped its stock price about 50%. And although federal incentives have spurred new activity in the field, the small margins that discouraged development efforts a decade ago — leading to our current critical shortage — still hamper the niche.
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