Antibiotics biotech hits the wall in difficult times for market

By Ben Hargreaves

- Last updated on GMT

(Image: Getty/Krizde)
(Image: Getty/Krizde)

Related tags Achaogen Antibiotics Zemdri Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Achaogen sells majority of assets for a grand total of $16m ahead of bankruptcy, in another indication of the difficulties of relying on antibiotics for revenue.

The US-based biotech had received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its lead product, Zemdri (plazomicin), as recently as June 2018.

Zemdri is an antibiotic approved for the treatment of complicated urinary tract infection, including infection of kidneys, caused by specific bacteria.

However, sales of the product were not enough to offset the losses Achaogen posted in its full-year financials for 2018. The company reported​ a net loss of $186m (€164m) – a result that saw Archaogen’s cash reserves drop from $164m in 2017 to $31m by the end of the year.

In total, Zemdri brought in sales of $0.8m from commercial launch in July 2018 to the end of the year.

As a result, the company was forced to file for bankruptcy and has now sold most of its remaining assets.

Cipla, an Indian-based pharmaceutical company, agreed to purchase the worldwide rights, excluding China, to Zemdri, alongside unspecified, related assets and liabilities. QiLu Antibiotics Pharmaceuticals acquired the rights in China, while Heritage Global Partners picked up Achaogen’s lab equipment.

The asset sales brought in approximately $16m for the company, as it looks to sell its last asset, in the form of its C-Scape program, in a telephone auction today.

The program is in clinical trials, at the Phase I stage, for the treatment of complicated urinary tract infections due to multi-drug resistant pathogens.

This particular program was supported by funding from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) with $12m, including a potential further $6m.

Additional programs in the company’s pipeline also received support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP) – representing the public support such antibiotic-focused companies are receiving.

The European Medicines Agency recently called for input from companies to create a coordinated effort to combat the rise of antimicrobial resistance​ (AMR). While the US Food and Drug Administration recently approved a label expansion of the antibiotic Zerbaxa​ (ceftolozane and tazobactam) based on the rising threat of AMR.

However, such efforts will continue to struggle, unless a viable commercial pathway is found to support R&D commitments in the space, with the antibiotics market having been described as a ‘terrible business model’​ for pharma companies.

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