Another next-wave biotech, Cidara has an impressive executive team
CEO: Jeff Stein
Based: San Diego
Clinical focus: Antifungal drugs
The scoop: Jeff Stein joined Sofinnova some years back to pursue a goal to create a new antibiotics company, and he realized his dreams with Trius Therapeutics. When Cubist ($CBST) came along to scoop it up for $818 million in the summer of last year, tedizolid phosphate had succeeded in a slate of late-stage studies and was headed to regulators. And a couple of months ago the FDA offered its nod for the treatment, which is being rolled out as Sivextro as a more convenient competitor to Pfizer's ($PFE) Zyvox. Stein's playground break from biotech, though, didn't last very long. He's now back at the helm of Cidara, with a $32 million bankroll to get started, a deeply experienced executive team and a mission of developing frontline antifungal drugs.
What makes Cidara Fierce: The race to grow pipelines and product portfolios has made it possible to put together companies like Cidara, with deals freeing up cash and executive players to form new biotechs around cutting-edge science. In this case the company was seeded by 5AM Ventures and co-founded by former Achaogen ($AKAO) CEO Kevin Judice (a medicinal chemist and the new CSO at Cidara), 5AM partner Kevin Forrest and H. Shaw Warren of Harvard and Mass General, whose lab specializes in bacterial infections. Trius's former chief development officer, Ken Bartizal, is taking the same post at Cidara.
Cidara also bought an early-stage antifungal program dubbed biafungin for $6 million from a Durham, NC-based biotech called Seachaid, which had hit the wall financially. And the biotech is working with a drug development platform, Cloudbreak, which Stein says should help Cidara form partnerships with key companies in the field. Now Stein is calling on some of his old colleagues at Trius to help start this new biotech in some of his old offices in San Diego.
Fungal infections can occur among immunocompromised patients, such as cancer patients who are receiving chemo. Their white blood cell count is depleted, and Cidara's platform technology is designed around small molecules that can make the remaining white cells into a more effective defense system. Working with the seed money, Judice was already able to do a primate study on biafungin, rounding up preclinical data for the recent ICAAC meeting in Washington, DC.
Cidara--called K2 during its stealth-mode phase--wasn't the only game in town. Other biotechs came calling as well after Stein sold Trius, enhancing his reputation in the field. "Nothing really captured my attention until I saw this," he told FierceBiotech recently.
Biafungin should be in the clinic next year, with an in-house program to follow in 2016.
Cidara is part of a new breed of biotech. Over the last decade--when we saw a tough financing environment emerge during the post-2008 financial crash--a whole host of players in the biotech business gained some great know-how related to drug work. These new startups are approaching the business with a very realistic idea about development timelines, R&D budgets and a slew of industry contacts that will make deal-making far easier.
That's not a guarantee of success, but it improves the odds enormously.
Investors: 5AM Ventures led the round with Aisling Capital, Frazier Healthcare, InterWest Partners and "select institutional cross-over investors."
Biotech vets sign up to launch Cidara with $32M, new drugs for fungal infections
-- John Carroll (email | Twitter)