New cystic fibrosis biotech aims to take a different approach than Vertex

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California-based Synedgen has spun out its experimental cystic fibrosis treatments into a new biotech to be based in the Boston area, with an eye toward complementing existing drugs for the lung disease.

The new company, called Synspira, launched on Thursday with $8 million in financing from an anonymous investor and an exclusive license to privately-held Synedgen’s preclinical program for cystic fibrosis. Synspira is operating virtually — the CEO, Synedgen chief operating officer Shenda Baker, is its only current full-time employee — but the company is looking for physical office space in the Boston area.

The best-selling drugs for cystic fibrosis, made by Boston-based Vertex Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: VRTX), target the underlying cause of the disease — a wide range of genetic mutations. Synspira, by contrast, is developing treatments that target the buildup of mucus and bacteria in the lungs. Doing so could boost the effectiveness of antibiotics and improve lung function, the company believes.

The drugs are made of modified sugar molecules, which are designed to loosen mucus and prevent the buildup of bacteria on the surface of the lungs — a condition that can act as a shield to antibiotics. Synspira’s most advanced drug is expected to enter a Phase 1 study in 2018, Baker said in an interview.

“There are dozens of different (genetic) defects, and it’s hard to target them all,” she said. “As Vertex’s drugs and others’ move forward, our drug will be able to assist in pulmonary decline, by clearing out and removing infections that make lungs function less effectively.”

Among local firms, Norwood-based Corbus Pharmaceuticals is also developing a cystic fibrosis drug that is designed to manage the potentially deadly inflammation caused by the disease. That treatment is in mid-stage studies.

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