Longtime Novartis executive takes the helm at Macrolide Pharma

Board game with pieces on it
Novartis has lost a number of executives to biotech over the past couple of years. (Zajcsik/PD)

After serving a stint at Intarcia Pharma, Mahesh Karande has signed on as president and CEO at Macrolide Pharmaceuticals. Before making the move to biotech, Karande wore a number of hats at Novartis, including vice president and head of Novartis' breast and renal oncology unit in the U.S. 

Karande left Novartis to take a vice president role at Intarcia, where he was also the general manager for the company's ITCA 650 product, a temperature-stable form of exenatide delivered by a matchstick-sized pump implanted just beneath the skin. He left Intarcia in March, just a month after the company halted two late-phase trials of the treatment and laid off 60 employees as part of a restructuring plan. 

And he was just one of many Novartis execs who jumped ship in the past couple of years. David Epstein, who led Novartis Pharmaceuticals for six years, headed to Flagship Pioneering, while Usman "Oz" Azam left to take the CEO spot at Tmunity Therapeutics. Alessandro Riva left for Gilead, where he is executive vice president of oncology therapeutics, and Hugh O'Dowd ended up as chief of Neon Therapeutics. 

Now, Karande will lead Macrolide Pharma, which is working on first-in-class antibiotics for a range of multidrug-resistant bacterial infections. The company’s namesake, macrolides, are a type of antibiotic that bind to ribosomes in bacteria and block bacterial protein synthesis, stopping an infection. But macrolide development has been limited, because researchers have been unable to synthesize many of them. 

Macrolide Pharma launched in 2015 with $22 million and a technology platform out of Harvard University that constructs macrolides out of "basic industrial chemicals." 

"This enables us to rationally design Gram-negative activity into our compounds and to anticipate and overcome resistance mechanisms," the company says. 

Macrolide also announced $20 million in new funding, which will advance the development of its macrolides, including work to support the filing of an IND application for its lead program, which targets infections caused by drug-resistant, gram-negative bacteria. The company is working on intravenous and oral antibiotics for several illnesses caused by gram-negative pathogens. 

Suggested Articles

Boston Scientific’s deep brain stimulation implant for treating Parkinson’s disease has been approved by the FDA as safe to use within an MRI.

Sarepta will negotiate a warning for golodirsen rather than carry out more studies. But the implications of the rejection range beyond golodirsen.

The Pfizer Foundation has awarded 20 grants to organizations involved in tackling infectious diseases in low- and middle-income countries.