After a $10 million loss in the first quarter, Cempra can now report a $10 million deal in the second.

The Chapel Hill-based drug startup firm has landed a $10 million up-front licensing fee from Japan-based Toyama Chemical Company for exclusive commercialization rights of its top drug candidate in Japan.

Cempra (Nasdaq: CEMP) also stands to gain as much as $60 million in milestone payments. Royalties also would be paid based on sales, pending approval.

The deal was announced after the markets closed Monday.

Cempra recently announced a first quarter net loss of $10.3 million, up from $3.5 million a year earlier.

However, much of that loss was for research and development of solithromycin, currently in phase III trials in patients with community-acquired bacterial pneumonia.

The progress of the candidate thus far drew big interest from Toyama, which is part of FujiFilm Holdings.

“Toyama is a leading antibacterial company in Japan that has experience in developing and commercializing novel antibiotics in Japan, the second largest antibiotic market in the world,” said Prabhavathi Fernandes , chief executive officer of Cempra, in announcing the deal.

“We are very pleased to see that Toyama has selected solithromycin to add to its portfolio of antibiotics and it will commit significant resources to initiate clinical development and initiate commercialization activities to bring this important new antibiotic to patients in Japan,” Fernandes added. “We look forward to working with Toyama in bringing solithromycin to market in Japan.”

According to Cempra, solithromycin “shows potent antibacterial effect” against pneumonia-related bacteria that are resistant to macroildes, a treatment “widely used” in Japan. 

Inside Look at Solithromycin

In a conference call to discuss the latest quartertly financials, Fernandes described the compound at length:

“This antibiotic candidate is differentiated from the currently recommended community-acquired bacterial pneumonia or pneumococcal pneumonia or CABP treatments, which is primarily intravenous ceftriaxone plus oral azithromycin. Solithromycin is differentiated from this primary recommendation, because it has the potential as monotherapy, which is not the case for azithromycin, the gold standard macrolide in CABP. Also, solithromycin could have the flexibility of both oral and IV dosing, which is not the case for ceftriaxone, the primary recommendation for CABP.

“The solithromycin may reduce hospital space by switching from IV-to-oral therapy during the treatment period or keep patients out of the hospital altogether by starting an oral dosing in the first place. Note that the IV-to-oral switch is the same antibiotic is an advantage to doctors, as doctors do not like to change an antibiotic midstream, if the patient is improving.

“Solithromycin is also differentiated from the second recommended treatment for CABP, which is intravenous or oral fluoroquinolone, primarily Levaquin and Avelox. Solithromycin is better targeted to the pneumonia pathogens, tearing the normal intestinal flora, which is known to be essential to our very well being, and is therefore expected to have a favorable safety profile over these fluoroquinolones.”