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May 19, 2020 Bioscience Notebook

Melinta eyes post-bankruptcy expansion

PHOTO | CONTRIBUTED Jennifer Sanfilippo, Melinta CEO.

Fresh out of bankruptcy, antibiotics maker Melinta Therapeutics Inc. and its new owner have wasted no time putting into action its plans to expand the reorganized company.

The former New Haven drugmaker made an unsolicited bid last week to acquire Massachusetts antibiotics developer Tetraphase Pharmaceuticals for $27 million in cash. 

Tetraphase disclosed the bid in a May 14 U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission filing. 

Melinta is the third potential buyer courting the Watertown, Mass.-based drugmaker, driving up the company’s price in a three-way bidding war. 

Tetraphase had agreed in mid-March to be acquired by California-based AcelRx Pharmaceuticals for $14.4 million and was planning to close the deal this quarter when La Jolla Pharmaceuticals, another California drugmaker, submitted a competing bid for $22 million. 

Like the previous bidders, Melinta’s offer included a potential payout of up to $12.5 million more under a contingent value right, based on certain milestones. 

Tetraphase said in the SEC filing that its board was evaluating the proposal and hadn’t determined if it qualifies as “superior” under the terms of its merger agreement with AcelRx. 

Buying Tetraphase would add to Melinta’s arsenal the antibiotic Xerava, which the FDA approved in 2018 to treat serious intra-abdominal infections. Xerava generated $3.6 million in net sales in 2019.

Melinta signaled its growth aspirations when it emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy late last month under new private ownership, affiliates of health-care investment firm Deerfield Management.

CEO Jennifer Sanfilippo told New Haven BIZ at the time that the company, now debt-free and well financed, planned to add new drug candidates and commercial-stage drugs to its portfolio, leveraging its hospital-based sales team. 

Melinta’s portfolio currently includes four commercial antibiotics: Baxdela, Vabomere, Orbactiv and Minocin. But sluggish sales in the difficult antibiotics market led to the company’s bankruptcy filing late last year. 

Spun out of Yale in 2000 as Rib-X Pharmaceuticals, Melinta closed its flagship New Haven office last year. It has 110 employees at its Morristown, N.J. headquarters and another office in Illinois.

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Joseph Truitt, the CEO of Achillion Pharmaceuticals when it was acquired by Alexion for $930 million in January, has landed in a new role heading a Wilmington, Del. biotech.

Truitt, who during his two-year tenure as CEO moved Achillion’s New Haven headquarters and half its staff to suburban Philadelphia, was appointed permanent CEO of BioSpecifics Technologies Corp. on May 7. He had been serving as interim chief for a month, the company said in a news release. 

The commercial-stage company develops drugs to treat diseases caused by excess collagen. 

Truitt had been with Achillion since 2009, holding previous roles of chief operations officer and chief commercial officer before replacing CEO Milind S. Deshpande in 2018.

Truitt, who is from the Philadelphia area, relocated the company’s C suite and roughly 30 employees to a new office in Blue Bell, Pa. in early 2019, saying in interviews that he was attracted to the city’s talent pool and access to two major airports.

BioSpecifics, in the announcement, called Truitt a “high-performing, experienced biopharma executive” and cited Achillion’s sale to Alexion under his leadership. 

Alexion, which is headquartered in Boston but has a major New Haven research facility, has not provided specifics about how the acquisition has impacted Achillion employees.

But a spokeswoman said Monday that the company has maintained Achillion’s presence in New Haven. She said the integration of the two companies has focused on maintaining continuity in clinical trials Achillion had underway.  

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Despite disruptions from COVID-19, New Haven's BioXcel Therapeutics announced last week that it had completed enrollment in two Phase 3 clinical trials of its experimental drug to treat agitation.

The drug, BXCL501, is a thin-film formulation of an older drug known as dexmedetomidine. It dissolves in the mouth similar to a mouthwash strip. 

The clinical trials, known as SERENITY I and II, are testing the drug for agitation in patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, respectively. 

BioXcel, which uses artificial intelligence to discover and repurpose drugs, plans to report data on the trials in July and expects to submit an application for FDA approval in early 2021.

Contact Natalie Missakian at

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