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Summit funded through to 2020 thanks to US$25mln investment from US biotech billionaire

Summit has big plans for its flagship ridinilazole C. Diff treatment as well as its gonorrhoea and hospital superbug candidates this year, and it now has the funds to develop all of them as intended
The WHO has called antibiotic resistance one of the biggest threats to global health”

Summit Therapeutics PLC (LON:SUMM NASDAQ:SMMT) now has enough cash in the bank to comfortably last through to the end of January 2020.

The biotech’s coffers have been given a US$25mln boost from US billionaire Bob Duggan, who has agreed to take a 48.8% stake in the company.

He’s paying a premium for his shares, too, some 32% above the asking price on Nasdaq on Friday afternoon.

READ: US billionaire invests in Summit

Duggan was the chief executive and chairman of Pharmacyclics, the company behind blockbuster cancer drug Imbruvica which was sold to AbbVie Inc (NYSE:ABBV) for US$21bn back in 2015.

The fresh capital means Summit has more than enough in the bank to begin patient enrolment into the phase III clinical trial of its ridinilazole C. Difficile treatment in the first quarter of 2019.

Recruitment is expected to take around two years, with the first results coming back in early 2022, give or take a few months.

Previous studies have shown that the precision antibiotic can target C. Diff bacteria without also damaging the natural gut flora. It has also been shown to be better than the current gold standard, vancomycin.

Ezutromid disappointment

Getting ridinilazole into and through phase III trials will be Summit’s primary focus now after the disappointment of its Duchenne muscular dystrophy candidate, ezutromid, this summer.

Interim data for ezutromid published in January was encouraging, but the benefits seen then weren’t sustained for the remainder of the trial.

The data forced Summit to make the “difficult decision” to discontinue the development of the drug, with the company, instead, switching focus to its growing portfolio of antibiotics candidates.

“The world is in desperate need of new antibiotics, and we believe we can deliver with our new mechanism antibiotics covering the most urgent infectious disease threats and a platform that has the potential to continue to unveil novel targets and deliver optimised candidates for the clinic,” said chief executive Glyn Edwards.

“Promising” pipeline

With the DMD drug coming up short, Summit has reinvented itself to become an antibiotics specialist, with ridinilazole at the forefront.

The sector is commanding a lot of attention and investment at the moment, with the World Health Organization recently declaring that antibiotic resistance is “one of the biggest threats to global health”.

Adding weight to that is the government’s estimate that 5,000 people die every year in the UK because antibiotics no longer work for some infections.

READ: Gonorrhoea trial to start next year

Using its Discuva platform, Summit has identified a potential treatment for gonorrhoea – a sexually transmitted infection which affects an estimated 78mln people every year.

Because it is quite common, the bacteria are becoming more and resistant to traditional treatments, making it harder to treat.

Summit’s compound – SMT-571 – is set to enter a phase I clinical trial in the second half of 2019 and the study will be supported by the US$4.5mln it received from CARB-X, a US programme designed to accelerate the development of new antibiotics.

READ: Summit identifies possible new ways to treat MRSA

The Discuva platform has also yielded “multiple” potential ways to kill hospital-acquired superbugs such as MRSA.

Summit said it has been able to identify genes which are essential for such pathogens to survive, information which it is using to try to develop new drug candidates.

Next year looks set to be a busy one for Summit, but with Duggan’s backing, financing it all is one less thing for management to have to worry about.

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