Last summer, AstraZeneca ($AZN) formally spun out its pared-down early-stage antibiotics unit in Waltham, MA, as Entasis Therapeutics, bequeathing a $40 million A round for a launch after it failed to find a buyer for the group. Today, the company gained another $50 million in venture backing from some A-list investors.
Clarus led the round, which included Frazier Healthcare Partners, Novo A/S, and Eventide Funds. And now Clarus' Nicholas Galakatos, Frazier's James Topper and Novo's Peter Tuxen Bisgaard are joining the board.
At one point AstraZeneca's Waltham unit had 175 staffers. But as we reported through 2015, the pharma giant failed to sell off the operation as it looked to get out of early-stage R&D work in antibiotics. When the biotech launched July 1, the company started with a staff of 21 and a mid-stage program for gonorrhea, along with some preclinical assets.
"We have a pipeline of products, we know what must be done and now it's time to get on with it," CEO Manos Perros told me at the time. "I think it's a really exciting company."
Entasis is one of several new antibiotics companies, a group that includes Cidara and Spero as well as more recent upstarts like Iterum and Zavante. New federal incentives have helped inspire the small wave as big companies like Merck ($MRK) and Roche ($RHHBY) have demonstrated a renewed interest in the field. But the small margins that discouraged development efforts a decade ago--leading to a critical shortage--still hampers the niche.
- here's the release