Polyphor aims high. The Allschwil-based biotech company wants to bring the first new class of antibiotics into clinical use; the last one reached clinics some forty years ago. The company has developed two proprietary, innovative and complementary technologies, PEMfinder and MacroFinder, to discover and develop macrocycle drugs addressing high, unmet medical needs. It now has the money to take the first step toward implementing its strategy, says CEO Giacomo Di Nepi. Polyphor received CHF 40 million in a closing announced in early April. The company has already received a first tranche of CHF 10 million.
Polyphor will use the proceeds to finance its pharma business unit, especially the registration programme of Murepavadin. The antibiotic targets Pseudomonas aeruginosa, including its most resistant strains. Di Nepi is very upbeat about Murepavadin’s potential. “The resistance of some bacteria is growing,” he says. With a mortality rate of between 30 to 40 per cent, Pseudomonas aeruginosa is one of the most dangerous bacteria in hospital pneumonia today. “Polyphor is at the forefront in the discovery of a new class of weapons against Gram-negative bacteria,” he says. “Murepavadin is the frontrunner of this class and is a precision medicine against Pseudomonas – highly effective and building little resistance.”
Polyphor wants to start clinical trial of Murepavadin very soon. After successful completion of the end of Phase II meeting with the FDA, the company will call in the remaining CHF 30 million of the current financing round. Its goal is to file for approval in 2020/21, according to Di Nepi.
Polyphor will also use the proceeds for a proof of concept programme for POL6014, an inhaled inhibitor of neutrophil elastase for the treatment of cystic fibrosis and other severe lung diseases, as well as to complete the preclinical development of the Polyphor antibiotic platform to progress candidates into the clinical stage.
The proceeds of the new round of financing should last for about two years, says Di Nepi. “In two years we will be a different company.” The company will strengthen its management team and bring its strong technological basis closer to the patients. Di Nepi hopes to open new access to non-dilutive funding – Polyphor already received USD 3 million of non-dilutive funds and just recently an addition of CHF 2.3 million in 2017. Over the next two years Polyphor can become a strong candidate for an IPO, although, at the end, “the outcome will depend on the market and other opportunities,” says Di Nepi.
Di Nepi stepped in as CEO in November, having worked for months as strategic advisor to to the Polyphor Board, and after many years in the industry, for instance as member of the Executive Committee of Novartis Pharma, and most recently as EVP and Managing Director Europe for InterMune. “Polyphor is a strong company that does not give in.”
The Basel area is the right location for Polyphor: the company has its roots here, and there are many very qualified professionals as well as access to a pool of competence in Switzerland. “Plus, as I recently experienced with InterMune Europe, which we based in Muttenz, BaselArea.swiss is always very supportive.”