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Business

Partnership funds first cohort of antibiotics research ventures

CARB-X support will go to U.S. and U.K. companies

by Rick Mullin
March 30, 2017 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 95, ISSUE 14

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Credit: Shutterstock
Many bacterial infections are acquired in hospital settings.

A public-private partnership that formed last year to support work on new antibacterial products through early preclinical development has awarded a total $24 million to 11 biotech companies and research teams—eight in the U.S. and three in the U.K. Recipients are eligible for additional milestone payments of up to $24 million in the next three years.

The Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria Biopharmaceutical Accelerator (CARB-X) was launched by three U.S. government agencies and the Wellcome Trust, a U.K. nonprofit, in response to the U.S.’s 2015 Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria initiative and the U.K.’s 2016 call for a global initiative to address antibiotic resistance. CARB-X expects to spend up to $450 million in five years—about two-thirds from the U.S. and one-third from Wellcome.

CARB-X says this first round of its awards will fund early-stage work on three potential new classes of small-molecule antibiotics—innovation in an arena that saw its last new therapeutic entry in 1984.

Award recipients’ pipelines also include four products that could offer alternative approaches to targeting and killing bacteria as well as drugs focused on seven new bacterial targets. All potential new medicines target Gram-negative bacteria prioritized by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and the United Nation’s World Health Organization.

Forge Therapeutics, which will receive an initial $4.8 million, the largest share of the CARB-X awards, has developed a small molecule that inhibits metalloenzymes associated with bacterial disease. Its lead effort focuses on LpxC, a zinc metalloenzyme found only in Gram-negative bacteria. There are currently no approved drugs targeting LpxC.

Among the other top recipients, Tetraphase Pharmaceuticals, working on chemistry targeting multi-drug-resistant bacteria, will receive $4.0 million in initial funding. Cidara Therapeutics, which has an immunotherapy platform, will receive $3.9 million. Visterra, developing an antibody-drug conjugate therapy for bacterial disease, will receive $3.0 million in first-round funding.

CARB-X expects to announce funding for other projects later this year.

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