Thiel backs Peptilogics to move antibiotic toward IND

Peter Thiel (Courtesy of By Dan Taylor [CC BY 2.0])

Peter Thiel has invested in Peptilogics. The Paypal founder contributed to the $5.5 million series A Peptilogics put together to advance its lead treatment for multidrug-resistant bacterial infections toward an IND.

Thiel joined with Stefan Roever, BlueTree Ventures and others to power Peptilogics to the series A. The financing follows the generation of preclinical data Peptilogics says suggest its platform and, in particular, its lead candidate can take out a broad spectrum of resistant bacteria. Those data have put Peptilogics in a position to work toward filing an IND next year.

Peptilogics is built on a platform it dubbed eCAP (engineered cationic antibiotic peptide). Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, including Peptilogics cofounder Jonathan Steckbeck, Ph.D., have worked on eCAPs for years, publishing their results in a series of papers that suggest the peptides kill bacteria including Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. 

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Pittsburgh-based Peptilogics’ peptides kill dormant and growing bacteria by disrupting their cell membranes. This direct, nonlytic mechanism differs from those used by other antibiotics. That has led to hopes that cationic peptides can fill a gap in the antibacterial arsenal. 

Academics have talked up cationic peptides for decades as a new way to kill bacteria, and some candidates have advanced well past the lab bench. Polymyxin B is used topically to treat resistant Gram-negative infections. And IntraBiotics Pharmaceuticals moved IB-367 as far as a phase 3 trial as a treatment for oral mucositis. 

A lack of efficacy scuttled IB-367, while toxicity, stability and other issues stopped the other drugs in the class from breaking through. These issues could all still stop Peptilogics in its tracks. But, with preclinical tests to date suggesting its lead program has an “encouraging” toxicity profile, the biotech has persuaded investors to give it the cash to see how it plays out.

“We are thrilled to see the eCAP platform now demonstrating its potential efficacy and safety in vivo,” BlueTree Ventures’ Catherine Mott said in a statement. “We believe that the clear unmet need in multidrug-resistant infections and the potential to rapidly establish proof of concept will allow Peptilogics to maximize value both in the short and long term.”

Peptilogics is building out its team to support its advance, most notably by appointing Sanjay Kakkar, M.D., as its CEO. Kakkar was last seen as CEO of Armetheon, a West Coast cardiovascular disease player he helmed until shortly before it agreed to merge with Espero Pharmaceuticals. Earlier in his career, Kakkar ran Trigen, a biotech founded to develop discoveries made at London’s Thrombosis Research Institute.