Polyphor parlays a pathogen-specific antibiotic and I/O work into a $165M IPO for its PhIII program

Polyphor has successfully completed an IPO, raising about $165 million to back its Phase III development of a new antibiotic specifically designed to counterattack against Pseudomonas aeruginosa along with an easy-stage shot at immuno-oncology.

The biotech priced an upsized lot of shares at 38 Swiss Francs — or about $38 — for the offering on the Swiss bourse. That makes for a fairly unusual hit, with many European biotechs drawn to try their luck on the freewheeling Nasdaq, where early-stage, high-risk biotechs have pulled off a string of successful raises.

Dubbed murepavadin (POL7080), their lead antibiotic had stirred some excitement a few years ago when Roche stepped in with a deal to collaborate with the company, then backed out in late 2015 saying that a streamlined development pathway was no longer available to the pharma giant.

But Polyphor continued to press forward, though, with help from the Wellcome Trust and others. This is the first new class of antibiotics to come along in 50 years, the biotech says, which they call Outer Membrane Protein Targeting Antibiotics. Its pitch to break from the usual brand of broad-spectrum antibiotics and develop a pathogen-specific remedy at a time of rising drug resistance resonated in the community. And Polyphor has been building a pipeline of new products in the process, with the Phase III focused on ventilator-associated bacterial pneumonia.

More recently, Polyphor has also been attracting attention in the booming I/O field, where its drug, the anti-CXCR4 drug balixafortide, combined with Halaven (eribulin) achieved a 38% overall response rate.

Big Pharma has been a reluctant player in antibiotic development for years now, put off by thin margins and cheap generics. Despite the increase in drug resistance, the market itself hasn’t been generous and incentives by themselves have not been enough to reawaken their interest. That has left the bulk of the work to a startup generation of biotechs like Polyphor, which are expecting to see the numbers improve as the situation worsens.

In this particular case, murepavadin has the potential to address hospital cases, where the mortality rate has been high and reimbursement can be as well.

Image: SIX Swiss Exchange. SHUTTERSTOCK

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Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
Director of Operations
Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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