Based: Watertown, MA
CEO: Guy Macdonald
The Scoop: The desperate need for new antibiotics is an issue that's raised almost every day now as the notorious NDM-1 superbug grabs headlines around the world and MRSA continues to claim new victims.
Tetraphase sees itself as a franchise-building biotech in the next-gen antibiotic space. And it's achieved considerable venture support for its approach, garnering $80 million from investors--including a $45 million Series C last June designed to push the developer into 2012 and the likely arms of an avid partner.
What Makes it Fierce: Tetraphase launched four years ago with technology developed at Harvard, where Andrew Myers and his colleagues in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology had opened the door to creating new tetracyclines through synthetic chemistry, far surpassing the fermentation process that is now in use. Its lead program is an IV broad spectrum antibiotic, but there's a lot of excitement here about the possibility of creating unique oral antibiotics.
The biotech's primary goal now is to "demonstrate the compound works against a mix of bacteria, particularly the gram negatives," says CEO Guy Macdonald. "We're right in the middle of a Phase I designed to see if the lead compound has oral bioavailability. If we could make it oral it would make it unique."
Tetraphase is all about versatility and it plans on taking multiple shots at the antibiotic goal post. Using synthetic chemistry starting with the tetracycline backbone, the developer believes it can create a portfolio of antibiotics that hits the two big classes of bacteria while selective-spectrum antibiotics that target urinary tract infections and community-acquired bacterial pneumonia have been added to the pipeline as well.
"The sweet spot for pharma is at the end of a completed Phase II," says the CEO. And the goal with this latest financing is to get Tetraphase through the middle of 2012, with a completed Phase II study under its belt for its broad spectrum TP-434 program. A pair of Phase I programs should also be wrapped on its next two targets. That would open the door to a licensing pact, perhaps a new venture round or even an IPO, if the market looks right for biotechs with that kind of profile.
Tetraphase is going to add to its staff as it adds to its pipeline. Macdonald says the 25-person roster will grow by another three or four later this year.
Venture backers: Excel Ventures, CMEA Ventures, Fidelity Biosciences, Flagship Ventures, Mediphase Venture Partners and Skyline Ventures.