Cubist makes Euro landfall with a $400M purse for antibiotics R&D

The antibiotics-focused Cubist Pharmaceuticals ($CBST) has opened up shop in Europe with a Swiss international headquarters, part of its plan to spend $400 million on infectious disease R&D this year and spotlight new treatments for global scourges.

Cubist Senior Vice President Patrick Vink

The company's new hub, sited in Zurich, will host about 50 new employees, Cubist said, and the drugmaker intends to add about 200 international workers as it fleshes out a global operation. That means more researchers, regulatory specialists and salespeople, according to the company, which grew its workforce 35% to about 960 people last year.

"We are one of the few companies globally to take on the challenge of antibiotic resistance, and this expansion enables us to continue to address the growing medical need," Cubist Senior Vice President Patrick Vink said in a statement.

Meanwhile, worldwide concerns about the rise of drug-resistant bacterial infectious have reached a fever pitch, with international organizations sounding alarms that the industry's pipeline is far too thin for comfort. As it stands, such infections kill 25,000 people in the European Union and 23,000 in the U.S. each year, according to Cubist.

In response, the company is forging ahead with an ambitious plan to deliver four new antibiotic treatments by 2020, calling its $400 million 2014 commitment the tip of a growing R&D iceberg in the field.

For the moment, Cubist is awaiting final word from European and U.S. regulators on ceftolozane/tazobactam, a combination antibiotic designed to fight complicated urinary tract and intra-abdominal infections. The FDA is set to weigh in on the treatment by Dec. 21, and an EU final decision is expected by the second half of next year.

If those applications work out, the Lexington, MA, company will preparing for another big launch to follow this summer's approval of Sivextro, a superbug treatment the company picked up in its $707 million deal for Trius Pharmaceuticals last year. That drug is a direct competitor to Pfizer's ($PFE) $1.4 billion-a-year Zyvox, boasting fewer side effects, less frequent dosing and shorter treatment times than its rival.

And Cubist's recent run of successes has hardly gone unnoticed, as analysts point out how well its offerings might fit in with some of the world's largest drugmakers. Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) and Eli Lilly ($LLY) all have the cash and competency to make a run at Cubist, analysts have said, and with a market cap of around $5 billion, the company is digestible to Big Pharma.

Beyond ceftolozane/tazobactam and Sivextro, the company's pipeline includes therapies for hospital-acquired bacterial pneumonia, Clostridium difficile and opioid-induced constipation.

- read the statement