Once picked as a $500M win­ner, bank­rupt Achao­gen auc­tions off its an­tibi­ot­ic for a frac­tion of that

Achao­gen has just about wrapped up its go­ing-out-of-busi­ness sale, with a small group of buy­ers from around the globe pick­ing up its main an­tibi­ot­ic as­sets for a song. And they’re just one short tele­phone auc­tion away from sell­ing their last re­main­ing clin­i­cal pro­gram.

Bank­rupt and run­ning out of cash $AKAO af­ter go­ing $186 mil­lion in the red last year, the biotech has now sold off the glob­al rights to Zem­dri (pla­zomicin for mul­tidrug-re­sis­tant, gram-neg­a­tive pathogens) along with its lab equip­ment for just $16 mil­lion. Her­itage Glob­al Part­ners got the lab equip­ment. Cipla USA got all glob­al rights to Zem­dri out­side of Chi­na, while QiLu An­tibi­otics Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal bagged the roy­al­ty-free Chi­na rights. 

This is an an­tibi­ot­ic that Leerink once con­fi­dent­ly pre­dict­ed would reap $500 mil­lion a year in peak sales. In the heady days of spring, 2017, its stock reached a peak price of $27 a share. It’s vir­tu­al­ly worth­less now. The dra­mat­ic fall from mar­ket grace came as the FDA re­ject­ed the biotech’s pitch to use their an­tibi­ot­ic against blood­stream in­fec­tions, lim­it­ing the OK to drug-re­sis­tant uri­nary tract in­fec­tions while adding a black box warn­ing on safe­ty.

Once on the mar­ket, the an­a­lysts found that hos­pi­tals al­ready had a fa­vorite brand to turn to, and lit­tle Achao­gen made lit­tle head­way on its own. In founder­ing, the biotech of­fered one of the more re­cent cau­tion­ary ex­am­ples of the haz­ards of an­tibi­ot­ic de­vel­op­ment. In a field dom­i­nat­ed by gener­ics, star­tups are find­ing their way blocked by es­tab­lished prod­ucts, with lit­tle prospect for a turn­around, even though the threat of drug-re­sis­tant bac­te­ria grows with every pass­ing year.

In­vestors have not ig­nored the im­pli­ca­tions for the rest of the tiny op­er­a­tors in the field, as most of Big Phar­ma shuns the space.

Any­one in­ter­est­ed in buy­ing Achao­gen’s last as­set — the C-Scape pro­gram — can di­al in for their last sale on Mon­day, June 10.

Their last 10-K notes that C-Scape is be­ing de­vel­oped for “cU­TI, in­clud­ing pyelonephri­tis, caused by ES­BL-pro­duc­ing En­ter­obac­te­ri­aceae. C-Scape is a b-lac­tam/b-lac­ta­mase in­hibitor com­bi­na­tion com­prised of ceftibuten, an ap­proved third gen­er­a­tion cephalosporin, and clavu­lanate, an ap­proved b-lac­ta­mase in­hibitor. The FDA award­ed Qual­i­fied In­fec­tious Dis­ease Prod­uct (QIDP) sta­tus to C-Scape for the treat­ment of cU­TI in 2017. QIDP sta­tus pro­vides in­cen­tives for the de­vel­op­ment of new an­tibi­otics, in­clud­ing pri­or­i­ty re­view and an ex­ten­sion by an ad­di­tion­al five years of any ex­ist­ing non-patent mar­ket ex­clu­siv­i­ty the prod­uct may be award­ed up­on ap­proval. Our C-Scape pro­gram is fund­ed in part by a con­tract with BAR­DA for up to $18.0 mil­lion, of which $12.0 mil­lion is com­mit­ted.”

What’s it worth on the mar­ket?

Im­age: Shut­ter­stock

Levi Garraway. Broad Institute via Youtube

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Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan [via Bloomberg/Getty]

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Never mind that they couldn’t get a planned 90 people in the study, settling for 25 instead; Vanda CEO Mihael H. Polymeropoulos said they were building on a body of data to prove it would help jet-lagged patients looking for added sleep benefits. And that, they added, would be worth a major upgrade from the agency as they sought to tackle a big market.

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