Chinese startup nabs $25M to combat GI antibiotic resistance in Phase III

Prospecting for novel antibiotics isn’t a particularly popular path. Despite the need for them with creeping antibiotic resistance, the economics aren’t typically viewed as very appealing, and several pharmas long ago backed away from them.

TenNor Therapeutics hopes to make a go of pursuing first-in-class, dual-acting antibiotics. Now, it’s secured a $25 million Series B round to get it into Phase III testing for its lead candidate and to advance a couple of others in the clinic.

"With the infusion of the new capital, TenNor is well positioned to deliver the best treatment for H. pylori and other GI tract infections to patients in the coming years,” said TenNor founder and CEO Dr. Zhenkun Ma in a statement.

The startup was founded in 2013 and is based in life science park BioBay in Suzhou, China. It acquired the assets of the now-defunct Tularik spinout Cumbre Pharmaceuticals, and it also has intellectual property that it has in-licensed from the TB Alliance.

Its lead candidate is TNP-2092, an oral, locally acting gastrointestinal tract antibiotic; TenNor will use the financing to advance it into Phase III trials. It will also move a second, undisclosed product into clinical proof-of-concept and a third into Phase I.

The company plans to develop TNP-2092 to treat Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) and other GI pathogens implicated in common, serious disorders. The initial Phase III testing will be specifically in H. pylori; it’s intended to address needs that remain unmet with the standard-of-care triple and bismuth-containing quadruple therapies.

Including TNP-2092, TenNor has a trio of dual-action antibiotic candidates that it says have distinct mechanism of action. They are intended to work against bacterial strains that are resistant to existing antibiotics and to have a low propensity to develop resistance. They are aimed particularly at digestive diseases including H. pylori and C. difficile infections as well as hepatic encephalopathy, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth and Crohn’s disease.

The financing round was led by China-focused firm Northern Light Venture Capital with participation from existing investors Frontline BioVentures, WuXi PharmaTech Healthcare Fund I, Oriza Venture Capital and Relativity Healthcare Fund.

"The company has made remarkable progress towards delivering life-changing products to patients in China and the rest of the world," said Dr. Leon Chen, founder and managing partner of Frontline BioVentures. "The truly innovative products in TenNor's development portfolio have the potential to address some of the major unmet needs in the area of infectious diseases.”