R&D, Venture

Shooting for PhIII, Spero tees up a new lead antibiotic in-licensed cheap as it lines up $86M IPO

Ankit Mahadevia

Late last week Spero Therapeutics threw its S-1 into the IPO ring as the biotech queue for jumping into the public arena was growing longer by the day.

Spero got started with some seed funding from Atlas Venture and a high-profile partnership with Roche, but that pact ended last year without nearly as much fanfare as it was originally announced.

The biotech’s lead antibiotic is SPR994, an oral formulation of the carbapenum-class antibiotic tebipenem, which Spero in-licensed from Meiji Seika with a very modest upfront of $600,000, with up to $3 million in milestones. The Japanese company won an approval for this antibiotic in 2009 and handed over data on 1200 patients. The therapy is sold as Orapenem.

That fits into a new strategy for flipping biotechs into the public markets. By in-licensing the product on a regional basis — the announcement came out yesterday — Spero can style itself as a near-term late-stage biotech company, which is likely to be much more appetizing the investors.

Two more drugs — SPR741 and SPR206 — are coming off Spero’s platform tech, which is designed to punch up antibiotics so they can penetrate the outer cell membranes of Gram-negative bacteria.

The plan now is to tee up a Phase I study of SPR994 and then move straight into a pivotal Phase III for community-acquired urinary tract infections, provided they get the FDA’s blessing.

Spero was launched by founding CEO Ankit Mahadevia, who earned a pay package worth a total of $814,985 last year. Mahadevia also owns 2.8% of the stock. The biotech gathered a $51.7 million crossover round last spring.

Two of Atlas’ funds own around 23% of the equity now, with SR One coming in at 17% and the old Google Ventures ringing up at 13.2%. Other investors include Lundbeckfond, RA and Osage University Partners

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