Savara raises $20M to push its inhaled antibiotic into Phase III

Austin, TX, biotech Savara Pharmaceuticals picked up $20 million in Series C cash as it moves toward Phase III with an inhaled antibiotic designed to combat infections in patients with cystic fibrosis.

The capital, drawn from undisclosed boutique funds and family offices, will support Savara's sole clinical asset, a powder formulation of the antibiotic vancomycin. In a Phase II trial on 87 CF patients with MRSA, Savara's AeroVanc met its main goal of significantly reducing bacterial density compared with placebo, the company said. Now, the biotech is scouting sites for a Phase III study, planning to begin enrollment by year's end across about 80 outposts in the U.S. and Canada.

Vancomycin has been used as a bacteria-killing intravenous therapy for decades, but its efficacy in treating lung infections has long been hampered by deliverability issues, according to Savara. AeroVanc, by dispersing powdered vancomycin directly to the site of infection, has the chance to boost the antibiotic's effectiveness while limiting drug exposure elsewhere in the body, the company said.

MRSA affects roughly 30% of the U.S.'s 32,000 CF patients, according to Savara, and there are no approved inhalable therapies for the infection.

The FDA has granted AeroVanc its fast-track designation, promising a speedy review, and has conferred the therapy Qualified Infectious Disease Product status, which would give Savara 12 years of market exclusivity if it can win approval.

Beyond CF, Savara is exploring other disease states in which MRSA is becoming a problem, CEO Rob Neville said. And the company is taking a look at external products it could buy or license that could work in tandem with AeroVanc, with "the long-term goal of building a specialty pharma with a focus on respiratory diseases," Neville said.

Savara's latest funding follows a $10 million raise closed in 2014 and a $16 million B round from 2013.

The company got off the ground in 2007, attracting an investor syndicate that includes members of the Tech Coast Angels, the North Texas Angel Network, the Central Texas Angel Network and the Keiretsu Forum. Savara has also received financial support from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund, Qualifying Therapeutic Discovery Program and the National Institute of Health.

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