With $32M, Boston Anti-Fungal Startup Morphs Into San Diego’s Cidara

Xconomy San Diego — 

Details about the new San Diego biotech headed by former Trius Therapeutics CEO Jeff Stein have been released today. I reported last week on the company’s regulatory filings.

The company, founded two years ago in Boston as K2 Therapeutics, has been rechristened as Cidara Therapeutics in a restructuring that includes $32 million in Series A financing to advance the company’s immunotherapy platform for people with life-threatening fungal infections.

While many fungal or yeast infections are superficial, studies have shown the incidence of potentially life-threatening systemic fungal infections has increased over the past 20 years, especially among patients with compromised immune systems. Cidara says more than 500,000 patients are treated for fungal infections in U.S. hospitals annually, and that the infections cause significant patient morbidity and mortality, with costs estimated at $8 billion.

Cidara says its “Cloudbreak” technology for “redirecting the immune system may offer major advances in developing treatments for these patients.”

Cidara also is advancing its work on biafungin, a new antifungal drug currently in preclinical studies.

Biafungin is a member of a new class of antifungal drugs known as echinocandins that inhibit the synthesis of glucan, a structural molecule in the cell wall of fungi; the mechanism is similar to the way penicillin works against bacteria. Echinocandin antifungals offer an alternative treatment option for serious fungal infections, especially those caused by candida, a common yeast fungus.

Cidara says its financing round was led by 5AM Ventures, Aisling Capital, Frazier Healthcare, and InterWest Partners, as well as unnamed “institutional crossover investors.”

The company was co-founded by Kevin Forrest of 5AM Ventures, former Achaogen founder and CEO Kevin Judice, and H. Shaw Warren, of Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital. Forrest has joined Cidara as chief operating officer and Judice is serving as chief scientific officer. Warren will join Cidara’s scientific advisory board.

Stein joined the company earlier this year as CEO.

In today’s statement, he says, “Our vision is to apply the versatile Cloudbreak small molecule immunotherapy platform to treat patients with compromised immune systems across multiple therapeutic areas. We will initially target patients with compromised immune systems resulting from cancer therapy, bone marrow transplants, and solid organ transplants where the risk of death from invasive fungal infections, even on best available care, often exceeds 50 percent. Our objective is to rewrite the book on how such infections are treated.”

“Current treatment options for patients whose immune systems are severely attenuated by cancer and transplant treatments are typically unsuccessful without reversal of the immune defect,” said Kieren Marr, professor of medicine and oncology and director of the oncology, transplant and infectious diseases program at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and advisor to Cidara. “The Cloudbreak platform’s novel approach of redirecting the immune system may offer major advances in developing treatments for these patients.”