Cempra gets $10M milestone for its antibiotic development in Japan

North Carolina antibiotics maker Cempra has received a $10 million milestone payment from a Japanese drugmaker – indicative of the country’s need for a next-gen antibiotic. Toyama Pharmaceutical, a subsidiary of Fujifilm Holdings, owns exclusive rights to develop and commercialize Cempra’s new antibiotic, solithromycin, in Japan for respiratory tract infections like pneumonia. Though U.S. usage is number […]

North Carolina antibiotics maker Cempra has received a $10 million milestone payment from a Japanese drugmaker – indicative of the country’s need for a next-gen antibiotic.

Toyama Pharmaceutical, a subsidiary of Fujifilm Holdings, owns exclusive rights to develop and commercialize Cempra’s new antibiotic, solithromycin, in Japan for respiratory tract infections like pneumonia.

Though U.S. usage is number one, Japan is the world’s second-largest antibiotics market with some $4 billion in annual sales. The category of drugs that Cempra’s developing – macrolides – account for about $700 million in sales in Japan, CEO Prabhavathi Fernandes said. She’s pegging the new antibiotic as a potential new blockbuster – “it could be a $10 billion product,” she said. Given the pressing global need for powerful new antibiotics, perhaps this CEO’s estimation isn’t tremendously far off…

Interestingly, antibiotic resistance is even more rampant a problem in Japan than in the U.S. with macrolide resistance in up to 78 percent of pneumococcus strains – so docs have limited oral therapeutic options, Fernandes said. It’s studying solithromycin in oral, intravenous and pediatric uses, and has gotten BARDA funding for that latter application.

Solithromycin, the first antibiotic to be released in the same class as erithromycin in some 25 years, is also being tested in Phase 3 trials for strains of gonorrhea and chlamydia. The company’s also synthesized macrolides for non-antibiotic use, Fernandes said, with targets in chronic inflammatory disease, endocrine diseases and gastric motility disorders.

The publicly traded Cempra has raised more than $100 million to develop this new antibiotic; Fernandes said she projects it could begin commercialization in 2016.