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U.S.–U.K. Alliance Targets World’s Deadliest Superbugs

Research includes oral antibiotic and 60-second imaging tool for lung infections

The Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Biopharmaceutical Accelerator (CARB-X), a nonprofit effort based in Boston, is investing $24 million immediately and up to $24 million in milestone-based additional payments over three years to help 11 biotech companies and research teams accelerate the development of new antibacterials and diagnostics aimed at treating infections caused by the world’s deadliest antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Eight of the funding recipients are based in the United States and three in the United Kingdom.

Three of the funded research programs are focusing on new classes of small-molecule antibiotics (Forge, Oppilotech, and Redx). The last new class of antibiotic for acute infections was approved in 1984. Four additional projects are investigating new nontraditional products (Cidara, ContraFect, Microbiotix, and Visterra). Nontraditional therapeutics work differently than traditional antibiotics and include such approaches as enhancing the immune response to fight bacteria and developing drugs that incapacitate the pathogen's ability to grow. All of the potential new medications target gram-negative bacteria prioritized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Moreover, Entasis is developing an oral antibiotic for gram-negative infections, which are currently treated intravenously. Proteus is working on a rapid diagnostic-imaging tool that aims to identify the type of bacteria causing a lung infection within 60 seconds. Tetraphase has focused on producing next-generation synthetic tetracyclines. Spero is developing combination therapies that could boost the potency of existing antibiotics.

Public health officials have warned for years that the world is facing an urgent public-health threat from antibiotic-resistant bacteria and that the pipeline of new therapies to treat “superbugs” is precariously thin, the announcement said. An estimated 700,000 deaths occur each year around the world from drug-resistant infections. In the U.S., the CDC estimates that 23,000 people die each year from antibiotic-resistant infections.

CARB-X is a nonprofit effort headquartered at the Boston University School of Law. It was launched by the Department of Health and Human Services, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and is funded by BARDA and the Wellcome Trust.

Source: CARB-X; March 30, 2017.

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