Cardeas Pharma Snags $34M For Antibiotic Against Hospital Infections

5/22/13Follow @xconomy

Seattle-based Cardeas Pharma just raised a lot more cash to fight a big problem that hospitals wrestle with every day, and which they’d rather not say much about publicly.

Cardeas, the startup led by prolific drug developer Bruce Montgomery, has raised the healthy sum of $34 million in its Series B venture financing, Xconomy has learned. New investor H.I.G BioVentures led the round, and was joined by existing investors Avalon Ventures, Novo A/S, Devon Park Bioventures, WRF Capital, as well as new investor Delphi Ventures. The company has now raised a total of $46.5 million for its drug development plan since it scraped together its first $1 million in February 2011. This latest round is the biggest financing for a Seattle-area biotech since Alder Biopharmaceuticals pulled in $38 million in April 2012.

All the money is rallying around Cardeas’s plan to turn a couple of generic antibiotics into a first-of-its-kind aerosol against lung infections people get in the hospital, often when they are on ventilators in intensive care units. These infections can be treated with intravenous antibiotics, but patients end up staying several extra days in the hospital, at about $10,000 to $15,000 for each day a patient spends in a U.S. intensive care unit. Good data are a bit hard to come by—there’s no well-financed patient advocacy group for people who get ventilator infections—but estimates are that 250,000 to 300,000 patients a year in the U.S. get this complication, which raises risk of serious complications and death, according to a 2006 review by University of Virginia researchers.

“We’ve thought this through very carefully. It’s a good bet. I’m happy, I’m comfortable with it,” Montgomery says. “If we win, other people will probably copy us. It’s a lot easier to copy than it is to pioneer.”

Montgomery has had big success in the past with turning a couple of antibiotics into aerosols for the treatment of cystic fibrosis, a deadly lung disease that affects about 30,000 people in the U.S. Those drugs are currently marketed by Novartis and Gilead Sciences. But if he and the team at Cardeas are successful in their quest against ventilator-associated infections, they could end up with a product that gets much broader use.

No one has ever come up with an aerosol antibiotic against the bugs that creep in while a person is stuck on a ventilator. When the infection hits, patients can currently get intravenous antibiotics known as carbapenems, which are powerful antibiotics of last resort against most gram-negative bacteria. Cardeas’s big idea is to take a couple old antibiotics—amikacin and fosfomycin—that are “broad-spectrum” antibacterials, meaning they can kill lots of different kinds of bugs, which is useful in the early days of an infection, when a physician doesn’t know exactly what kind of bug he or she is trying to kill.

Cardeas’s innovation is to turn the antibiotics into an aerosol form that’s designed to get them to penetrate deep into the sputum in the lungs where dangerous bacteria cause havoc. Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Acinetobacter baumannii and Klebsiella pneumoniae are the “three bad guys” that Cardeas is most focused on, and which cause some of the more troublesome infections found in hospitals, Montgomery says.

Cardeas has obtained two key pieces of evidence … Next Page »

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  • Kevin

    So – are rumors of the death of Seattle biotech greatly exaggerated? ;-)