We’ve palavered much over the past two years about investing in makers of novel antibiotics….and had success with our long ideas Durata (now a unit of Allergan $AGN) and CellCeutix ($CTIX). Achaogen ($AKAO) remains a stock we love, and we predict investor rewards there in due course. We all know the familiar mantras here: antibiotics drive the development of antibiotic resistance in a morbid two-step dance, and so despite medicine’s considerable advancements in providing new drugs to kill bacteria (there are now perhaps two dozen classes of robust antibiotics), clinical medicine thirsts for more. Bacteria resistant to our best antibiotics, if not to all antibiotics, now no longer shock us when they are reported.
But antibiotics are only one front in the antimicrobial wars. Sick patients also succumb to fungi. A perception, a mistaken one, abounds that bacteria are the fiercer enemy. They aren’t. An inpatient spikes a fever, and the doctor orders blood cultures. When the doctor gets a call soon after, as (s)he often does, that those cultures are growing fungus, physicians feel a sense of terror, of doom. The patient is far sicker now than before, and prospects for survival have dimmed sharply. Comparing the antibiotic industry with the antifungal industry is, to me, a lot like comparing the automotive and bicycle industries. Cars continuously incorporate new technologies, and a new model car is a vastly tricked out beast compared with my 12-year-old car. And yet the hottest new model of bicycle strikes me as scarcely an improvement on the Trek mountain bike I rode in medical school. The difference is so stark that globally, the biotech industry merits an F for failing to keep up in the antifungal space.
Comes now before us for review a company prepared to take up the slack. That company is ScyNexis ($SCYX), formerly of brainy biotech breeder city Durham, NC, and now newly headquartered in New Jersey.
What you need to know:
(1) ScyNexis’s new drug inhibits antifungal enzymes that assemble a critical molecular structure in fungi, a so-called beta-1,3-D-glucan. Beta-1,3-D-glucans are ubiquitous among fungi, but NEVER occur in mammals. Poison the machinery that makes them, and you have a nifty way of snuffing out fungi without harming those infected by them.
ScyNexis’s new agent, SCY-078, is not the only such agent on the market. An important drug called caspofungin (and members of its drug class, echinocandins) also block ...