Singapore’s MerLion Pharmaceuticals and the U.K.’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) won a grant from the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) Chemical and Biological Defense Program to support further development of MerLion’s novel atypical fluoroquinolone antibiotic finafloxacin against biological threat agents. The amount of the DTRA award has not been disclosed.

The multiyear project will investigate finafloxacin as a potential treatment for Burkholderia pseudomallei, other biothreat agents including Francisella tularensis and Yersinia pestis, and additional multidrug-resistant (MDR) pathogens. MerLion and Dstl will initially aim to win FDA agreement on the next steps for developing the antibiotic candidate.

MerLion is focused on the development of finafloxacin for a range of potential applications, including hospital and critical care infections, as well as community-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), infections related to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or cystic fibrosis, and potentially Helicobacter pylori. The firm says its longstanding collaboration with Dstl has already generated in vitro and in vivo data demonstrating that finafloxacin exhibits strong, rapid activity against MDR infections and biothreat agents, including B. pseudomallei, F. tularensis, and other intracellular biothreat agents, such as certain fluoroquinolone-resistant B. pseudomallei strains.

In 2015, MerLion reported results from a Phase II study in patients hospitalized with complicated urinary tract infections (cUTI) and pyelonephritis, which showed that a five-day course of intravenous and then oral finafloxacin was more effective than treatment with the current standard of care ciprofloxacin.

“We already have compelling preclinical results generated in the collaboration with our partners from Dstl for finafloxacin’s activity against various biothreat pathogens, as well as data from our positive clinical studies treating patients with cUTI infections,” said David Dally, CEO of MerLion. “The new project will enable us to investigate the activity of finafloxacin against a variety of very difficult-to-treat pathogens in more detail and will help to position finafloxacin as an effective therapy against multiple bioterrorism threats, as well as a treatment for other life-threatening infections.”

Yesterday, Dstl reported a collaboration with LifeArc (previously MRC Technology) and Canada's Centre for Drug Research and Development to identify antibacterial drug targets for the development of new antibiotics against MDR infections.

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