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Cempra, Melinta Therapeutics to Merge

By Barry Teater, NCBiotech Writer

Chapel Hill-based Cempra, a publicly held pharmaceutical company developing treatments for infectious diseases, plans to merge with privately held Melinta Therapeutics, an antibiotics developer based in New Haven, Conn.

The two companies announced in a news release they have signed a definitive agreement under which they will join forces as Melinta Therapeutics and be traded on the NASDAQ stock exchange.

“The combined company’s extensive pipeline, including commercial, clinical and preclinical stage anti-infective programs with multiple products in development across several indications, provides an exceptional platform to deliver potential long-term growth and value for shareholders,” said David Zaccardelli, Pharm.D., acting chief executive officer of Cempra.

“We are excited to merge Melinta with Cempra, bringing together an unrivaled set of assets and opportunities,” said Eugene Sun, M.D., chief executive officer of Melinta. 

Cempra shareholders will own about 48 percent of the combined company, and Melinta shareholders will own about 52 percent.

The board of directors of the combined company will have nine seats – four appointed by Cempra and four appointed by Melinta – with a newly appointed CEO to be determined by both companies. Melinta will designate the chairman of the combined company board. 

The boards of directors of both companies have approved the transaction. The merger is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2017, subject to stockholder approval.

The merger follows a rocky period for Cempra, which earlier this year downsized its workforce by 67 percent, cut other costs and retained Morgan Stanley & Co. to review its strategic business options. Employment was reduced to 45 jobs from 136.

A major cause of the restructuring was regulatory difficulty with Cempra’s oral antibiotic solithromycin for the treatment of community-acquired bacterial pneumonia. Citing safety concerns about potential liver damage from the drug, the Food and Drug Administration told Cempra it would need to conduct a larger clinical study to demonstrate the drug’s safety.

Melinta, meanwhile, has had better results with the FDA. In June the agency approved the company’s antibiotic Baxdela for the treatment of acute bacterial skin and skin structure infections (ABSSSI) in adults.

The merger “creates a leading antibiotics company to drive the commercial launch of Baxdela, and build over time by developing market-leading pipeline assets meeting the tremendous need for novel antibiotics that treat serious infections,” said John Temperato, president and chief operating officer of Melinta.

The combined company’s drug pipeline includes Melinta’s antibiotic radezolid for the treatment of acne and Cempra’s ophthalmic application of solithromycin for eye infections, and fusidic acid antibiotic for ABSSSI.

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