After completing an early stage evaluation of its broad-spectrum anti-fungal drug, San Diego’s Amplyx Pharmaceuticals said Wednesday it has raised $67 million in a Series C financing round led by a new investor, Sofinnova Venture Partners.
Ciara Kennedy, who succeeded Mike Grey as Amplyx CEO late last year, said in an interview with Xconomy that the company plans to report results of its Phase 1 study at IDWeek, the annual infectious diseases conference that is set for early October in San Diego. (Grey, who also is a venture partner with Pappas Ventures, moved to executive chairman at Amplyx.)
But raising $67 million in new funding is a pretty good indication that the outcome was encouraging, and Kennedy said the funding will be used to initiate Phase 2 clinical trials of its first-in-class drug later this year. Amplyx currently has 19 employees, and plans to hire a few more by the end of 2017, she added.
Amplyx said it has raised $118.5 million in total venture capital, and secured more than $10 million in NIH grants for its drug discovery and development programs. In addition to Sofinnova, Amplyx said new investors Lundbeckfonden Ventures, Arix Bioscience, and Pappas Capital joined the round, along with existing investors New Enterprise Associates, RiverVest Venture Partners, 3×5 RiverVest II, and BioMedVentures, the venture arm of San Diego’s BioMed Realty Trust. In a statement, Kennedy said the strong investor interest “further validates our confidence in the potential of our lead drug candidate to combat deadly fungal infections.”
The company’s lead candidate is a small-molecule drug, designated APX001. It is being evaluated in both intravenous and oral formulations for treating a host of life-threatening fungal infections, including those caused by Candida auris, Aspergillis, and rare molds like Fusarium and Scedosporium. The drug targets an enzyme that is crucial to cellular development and exists across all fungal species, Kennedy said.
The Amplyx CEO said it’s sometimes difficult for clinicians to immediately determine what kind of fungal infection a patient has. “We think this has great properties for a first-line therapy,” she said. “We have great activity across [many] strains of Candida and Aspergillis.”
Fungal infections can be especially dangerous for immune-compromised patients, including those with diabetes, transplanted organs, kidney failure, HIV, and cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy treatments, Kennedy said. The company estimates there may be as many as 500,000 worldwide cases of life-threatening fungal infections annually.
Some fungal infections are usually acquired during hospitalization, and some strains are resistant to major anti-fungal drugs. At one point, Kennedy referred to Candida auris as “the MRSA [multidrug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus] of the fungal world.”
The Centers for Disease Control describes Candida auris on its website as an emerging infectious agent that presents a serious global health threat. “Healthcare facilities in several countries have reported that C. auris has caused severe illness in hospitalized patients. Some strains of C. auris are resistant to all three major classes of antifungal drugs.”