Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Birth of Entasis

Last week, Entasis announced its birth as the spin-off from AstraZeneca’s antibiotics research group came to fruition. The officers of the company include Manos Perros as CEO, Michael Fitzgerald as CFO, Ruben Tomassi and John Mueller running the science and Chris White as Chief Business Officer. For now, Entasis is ensconced within the AZ facility in Waltham, but the company plans to move out after a period of time.

While AstraZeneca has provided the entire $40 million in funding for the nascent company, it retains no rights of any sort to any of the compounds present or future that might be discovered or developed by the company. Contrary to what I reported in my previous blog on this topic, AZ has apparently realized that they cannot have their cake and eat it, too. AZ retains control as the only investor.  Other than Manos Perros, the other three board members are all AZ employees focused in business development and divestment.  

Entasis’ most advanced compound is ETX0914, formerly AZD0914, currently in phase II trials for uncomplicated gonorrhea including disease caused by multiply resistant strains.  Based on their website, Entasis’ discovery programs seem focused on new B-lactam antibiotics or B-lactamase inhibitors, perhaps to follow-on to AZ’s avibactam.

According to the Fierce Biotech report, of the 175 employees involved in antibiotic research in Waltham, only 21 were employed by Entasis.  Entasis management has  stated that they plan to expand their group to 30 over the next year or so.  Once again, one must wonder what has happened to all the scientists who did not go to Entasis and what implications this has for our continued ability to support antibiotic research overall.

Once again, the result of AZ’s shenanigans over the last two years is bittersweet. Clearly, AZ management does not agree with the growing evidence that antibiotics can be profitable while providing an important public health need. This misguided view of the future of antibiotics research within the pharmaceutical industry has again led to the tragedy of layoffs of talented, experienced and motivated antibiotics researchers.  At least, AZ has provided a way forward for the discovery of new antibiotics in a new and slimmed-down package.  We can only wish Entasis the best of good fortune in their future endeavors.  We also hope that the success of Entasis will show AZ how mistaken they have been.  The best way to achieve that is with a successful pipeline and an ultimate sale to a large pharma AZ competitor who, in turns, builds shareholder value off of AZ’s folly.

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