Most biotech stories in 2009 are about companies hunkering down or otherwise playing it safe with incremental advances, not people just getting started with an audacious dream. Malcolm Kendall has one of those dreams. He’s starting a company that aims to identify new targets on cells that haven’t been proven before, and create antibiotics to hit those targets. It’s all in the name of coming up with a creative way to fight dangerous pathogens that infect people in the hospital.
The new company, Indel Therapeutics, is based in Vancouver, BC, not far from where its intellectual property originated at the University of British Columbia. Kendall, a former venture capitalist with Durham, NC-based Intersouth Partners, is the CEO, and he told me the story a couple weeks back while he was fundraising in Seattle at Invest Northwest with chairman Mike Abrams, the former CEO of Vancouver, BC-based AnorMed.
Indel is trying to solve one of the problems that freaks out U.S. hospital administrators. There is growing incidence each year of nasty and sometimes deadly bacteria like MRSA or “C.Diff” plaguing U.S. hospitals. Every year, about 1.7 million people in the U.S. get hospital-acquired infections, which kill about 99,000 people a year. It costs the U.S. health system $27.5 billion annually—which is about the same amount the country spends on its entire biomedical research budget. Many of these bugs are becoming increasingly resistant to traditional antibiotics, and pharmaceutical companies have struggled to come up with anything good enough to pass muster with the FDA (see recent stumbles with new antibiotics from Theravance and Targanta Therapeutics). So Indel sees this as a pharmaceutical market that’s ready for new ideas.
“If this works, this is big,” Kendall says. “There’s a screaming need for new targets and novel compounds.”