November 7, 2017

Melinta Therapeutics completes merger with N.C.'s Cempra

Photo | Contributed
Photo | Contributed
Melinta's antibiotic Baxdela, which treats MRSA, will be available early next year.
Photo | Contributed
Melinta's new CEO Dan Wechsler.

Melinta Therapeutics, a New Haven bioscience company which developed an antibiotic to treat the drug-resistant skin infection MRSA, said Monday it has closed on its merger with another antibiotics developer, North Carolina's Cempra Inc.

According to the deal first announced in August, Melinta stockholders will own 52 percent of the combined company, with Cempra stockholders holding the rest. The new company will operate as Melinta Therapeutics and began trading Monday on the NASDAQ Global Market under the symbol "MLNT."

The merger comes as Melinta, founded in 2000 as Rib-X Pharmaceuticals, prepares to go to market with its first drug, Baxdela. The drug earned FDA approval in June for treatment of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, better known as MRSA, and other serious skin infections. It is expected to be available early next year.

"The successful closing of our merger with Cempra is very exciting, as it positions us with significant capital to advance our clinical and commercial efforts for our flagship product, Baxdela," CEO and President Dan Wechsler said in a statement, adding that the merger will also "drive forward our extensive pipeline of anti-infective products."

Wechsler, a former Bausch & Lomb and Pfizer executive, was tapped last week to lead the combined company, replacing former Melinta CEO Eugene Sun, who will stay on as a consultant, a spokeswoman said Monday in an email. Wechsler most recently served as president and CEO of Smile Brands, Inc., until its sale in 2016.

Other top Melinta executives will continue in their roles, including Chief Medical Officer Dr. Sue Cammarata, Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Erin Duffy, and Chief Financial Officer Paul Estrem, the company said. Kevin Ferro, co-founder of the health care venture capital and private equity firm Vatera Healthcare Partners, will chair the combined company's Board of Directors.

Sun said previously that merging with publicly-held Cembra and combining the two companies' drug development efforts would give Melinta a rich pipeline across multiple classes of antibiotics as well as financial resources it couldn't access as a privately held company.

In addition to Baxdela, Melinta is developing antibiotics to treat acne and a new class of antibiotics to combat so-called superbugs.

Shares of Melinta stock opened at $12.80 Tuesday morning.

Natalie Missakian can be reached at news@newhavenbiz.com

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