Forge Therapeutics, Basilea Sign Deal to Pursue New Antibiotics

Xconomy San Diego — 

Forge Therapeutics, founded in 2015 with the goal of developing drugs that target metalloenzymes, said Wednesday it had agreed to let Basilea Pharmaceutica use its chemistry platform to develop new antibiotics.

Basilea, a Swiss company, has previously commercialized two drugs, an antifungal, isavuconazole (Cresemba), and an antibiotic, ceftobiprole (Zevtera). The former is marketed and distributed here by Astellas Pharma; the latter isn’t approved in the US. Basilea is also developing oncology drugs.

The Swiss drugmaker turned to Forge for the research collaboration and license agreement because it aims to develop drugs that inhibit metalloenzymes, or metal-dependent enzymes—Forge’s specialty. The San Diego company’s drug discovery process, known as Blacksmith, is designed to identify therapeutics that work by targeting such enzymes. More than 30 percent of known enzymes are metalloenzymes, meaning metal ions are an essential component, according to Forge.

In Wednesday’s announcement, the companies said the two targets Basilea has identified have never been exploited because they have been difficult to drug.

The deal comes with an upfront payment for Forge, but the companies didn’t disclose how much. The deal also makes Forge eligible for up to $167 million in payments for each of the two targets tied to development and sales milestones, plus tiered royalties if Basilea ends up commercializing drugs developed using Forge’s technology.

Forge, founded in 2015 around technology licensed from UC San Diego, is headed by co-founder and CEO Zachary Zimmerman. It received $8.8 million in March 2017 from CARB-X, a public-private initiative, to advance an internal antibiotic program toward human testing. The following month, it raised a $15 million Series A financing. The company also has a “strategic alliance” with German drug discovery and development company Evotec.

Earlier this year Forge said CARB-X had kicked in another $5.7 million to advance its efforts to develop treatments for serious lung infections caused by gram-negative bacteria. Based on the technical milestones it achieves, Forge could later get up to $5.4 million more.