Misbehaving markets prompt Motif Bio to shop ex-U.S. rights to PhIII antibiotic

Motif Bio (LON:MTFB) has tasked The Fulford Group with hustling up deals for the ex-U.S. rights to its Phase III antibiotic, iclaprim. The initiation of the business development drive follows quickly on from the first dosings of patients in a pair of Phase III trials Motif Bio hopes will secure it approvals on both sides of the Atlantic.

Motif Bio CEO Graham Lumsden

London, U.K.-based Motif Bio has pushed ahead into Phase III trials solo, tapping Covance, a major CRO, for support instead of securing the assistance of a biopharma partner in exchange for rights to its antibiotic. But, with Motif Bio open to letting other companies commercialize iclaprim outside of the U.S., it has engaged the services of life science M&A veteran Wilder Fulford and his team to hunt out deals for the asset. The appointment represents an escalation of the partnering strategy, the prospects of which Motif Bio has talked up over the past year.

Speaking to FierceBiotech, Motif Bio CEO Graham Lumsden said efforts to date have identified several companies with an interest in Phase III antibiotics. Bringing Fulford on board will allow Motif Bio to cast its net further, potentially enabling it to snag a deal with a company from outside its immediate network of contacts. "You only get to do this once," Lumsden said. "What we didn't want to do is just jump at the first deal that came our way that may have jeopardized a much more valuable deal down the road."

The partnership deals are one of two ways Motif Bio is trying to round up cash. In January, the firm appointed MTS Health Partners to drum up awareness of its business among U.S. investors ahead of a possible Nasdaq IPO. That plan is advancing in parallel to the partnership talks. "What we believe is important, the way the markets are misbehaving right now, is to have a number of strategic choices available to us," Lumsden said. "It's important to continue to explore the U.S. capital markets, but also to look for strategic partners, to bring in deals that would involve upfront payments."

If Motif Bio is to secure the upfront payments, milestones and royalty rate it thinks iclaprim is worth, it must persuade partners that its work on the antibiotic has positioned it secure approval. Iclaprim has been in this position before. In 2008, Arpida took iclaprim as far as a submission to FDA, only to see the regulator's Anti-infective Drugs Advisory Committee vote overwhelmingly against approval. At that time, FDA said it wanted to see data from an additional clinical trial before giving the nod to iclaprim. 

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