Cubist to Acquire Calixa Therapeutics in Deal Worth up to $402.5M

Xconomy Boston — 

Lexington, MA-based Cubist Pharmaceuticals says today that it’s inked a deal to buy fellow antiobiotic drug developer Calixa Therapeutics, of San Diego, for $92.5 million upfront and up to $310 million more in potential payments to Calixa shareholders.

Calixa—which Luke profiled back in March after it cleared a key safety study for one of its antibiotics—has a lead drug candidate called CXA-201 in mid-stage clinical trials for treating serious infections, including those caused by a common and sometimes drug-resistant bug called pseudomonas aeruginosa (or P. aeruginosa), according to Cubist. While not as well known as drug-resistant bugs like MRSA, P. aeruginosa can be similarly lethal. If CXA-201 clears the remaining regulatory hurdles, Cubist says that it has the potential to be a market-leading product. The plan is to develop the drug to treat complicated urinary tract and intra-abdominal infections as well as pneumonia acquired in hospitals.

Cubist said it hopes to have its purchase of Calixa wrapped up by the end of 2009.

Privately held Calixa’s lead drug is a combination of two anti-bacterial compounds, cephalosporin and tazobactam antibiotics. Its cephalosporin compound (dubbed CXA-101) was acquired from Japanese drugmaker Astellas Pharma, and Calixa has rights to develop the antibiotic in all countries accept for some Asia-Pacific territories, according to Cubist. In fact, the $310 million in potential milestone payments that Cubist would pay Calixa shareholders are are pegged to development goals with treatments that include CXA-101 as an ingredient. Cubist is hoping that, if all goes as planned, it could be asking the FDA for approval of Calixa’s lead antibiotic by 2013.

“Cubist has a proven track record of success in developing and commercializing anti-infective products,” said Dennis Podlesak, Calixa’s CEO, in a statement. “We have great confidence in their ability to optimize the therapeutic and commercial potential of the Calixa portfolio.”

Calixa was launched in 2007 with $30 million in Series A financing from well-known life sciences investors such as Domain Associates, Frazier Healthcare Ventures, and Canaan Partners. Despite the large initial financing, Luke reported back in March that the company was operating lean with mostly part-timers and consultants and only four full-time employees.

For Cubist, Calixa’s pipeline puts more potential antibiotics behind its top seller daptomycin (Cubicin), a treatment for MRSA skin infections and other bugs, which accounted for $414.7 million of the company’s total $433.6 million in 2008 revenue.

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