Cubist Pharmaceuticals Inc., a privately held start-up company inCambridge, Mass., has raised $9 million in a second round offinancing for development of small molecule compounds aimed atinhibiting protein synthesis in bacterial and fungal pathogens.

Nancy Gray, vice president of corporate development for Cubist, saidthe company's research "is based on three technological platforms:molecular biology, medicinal chemistry and classical drugdiscovery."

Cubist, she added, is focusing on drugs for gram positive and gramnegative bacteria, which have developed resistance to currentantibiotic therapies.

"We are developing compounds that are structurally distinguishedfrom other classes of antibiotics," Gray said. "They resemble classicorganic chemistry-based products as opposed to biological products.We have novel molecules that we've identified at the preclinicallevel, but we don't have a lead molecule for clinical development."

Cubist, formed in 1993, initially raised more than $9 million. Leadinvestors in both financing rounds were: DVS Partners, of Princeton,N.J.; Burr, Egan, Deleage & Co. and Comdisco Venture Group, bothof Boston; Greer Venture Partners, L.P., of San Francisco; andInterwest Partners, of Menlo Park, Calif.

New investors in the second round of financing were AdventInternational Corp. and Hambrecht & Quist Capital Management,both in Boston.

Gray said Cubist is seeking corporate partners to co-develop drugcandidates for the gram positive and gram negative infections, suchas staphylococcus aureus, streptococcus pneumoniae and helicobacterpylori, but may develop some other products on its own.

Cubist's anti-bacterial and anti-fungal technology attacks thetranslation phase, or second step, in protein production. The first stepinvolves transcription in which the genetic instructions from DNA arecopied on messenger RNA in the cell nucleus. Translation occurs inthe cell's cytoplasm where amino acids are assembled into proteinsbased on sequences specified by the mRNA.

Cubist has developed compounds aimed at preventing enzymes,called aminoacyl transfer RNA synthetases, from assembling theamino acids during translation. Disrupting the enzymes is designed tolead to cell death in the pathogenic organism and not interfere withthe corresponding human enzyme. n

-- Charles Craig

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