Biotech vets sign up to launch Cidara with $32M, new drugs for fungal infections

Cidara Therapeutics has emerged from stealth mode with a crew of experienced biotech execs, a $32 million bankroll from a slate of top-shelf venture investors and a plan to make a difference in developing frontline antifungal drugs.

Kevin Judice

Up until today Cidara was called K2, which was seeded by 5AM Ventures and co-founded by former Achaogen CEO Kevin Judice, 5AM partner Kevin Forrest and H. Shaw Warren of Harvard and Mass General, whose lab specializes in bacterial infections. As FierceBiotech reported last week, Jeff Stein, who sold Trius to Cubist ($CBST) a year ago in an $818 million deal, is taking the helm. And he's building the company around a close network of industry players as well as a foundation of expertise built up around Trius--demonstrating the regenerative nature of biotech in the U.S. as executive teams regroup following each new deal.

After Trius was bought out, "I was approached with numerous CEO opportunities," Stein tells FierceBiotech. "Nothing really captured my attention until I saw this."

Patients with knocked-down immune systems are threatened by lethal fungal infections, which carry a high mortality rate, he says, and the company is pursuing work on a versatile small-molecule approach to developing new therapies that promise to transform treatment in the field.

Judice, a medicinal chemist by trade and the new CSO at Cidara, was able to produce solid animal data on an in-house antifungal that successfully knocked out the infectious threat in a test involving non-human primates, says Stein. Cidara also bought an early-stage antifungal program dubbed biafungin for $6 million from a Durham, NC-based biotech called Seachaid, says Stein, 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.

Stein will work with some familiar faces, and in familiar places, at Cidara. The biotech is moving into old Trius space in San Diego which is being vacated by Cubist--which last week won approval for the Trius-developed antibiotic Sivextro. Trius's former chief development officer, Ken Bartizal, is taking the same post at Cidara. And Stein says he's recruiting several members of the old Trius staff as he puts together the initial 20-member team. The plan now calls for biafungin to go into clinical development next year, with the in-house program following in 2016.

5AM Ventures led the round with Aisling Capital, Frazier Healthcare, InterWest Partners and "select institutional cross-over investors."

- here's the release