Roche said today it will use Discuva’s (Selective Antibiotic Target IdentificatioN) SATIN technology platform to discover and develop new antibiotics for infections caused by multi-drug resistant Gram-negative bacteria, under a collaboration that could generate $191 million-plus for the British biotech.

Discuva will use SATIN on the bacteriocidal hits identified via high-throughput phenotypic screening of chemical classes which hit molecular targets distinct from those already known to interact with existing antibiotics. The screening enables Discuva to identify both the molecular target(s) of each compound and all the corresponding potential resistance gene(s). 

Discuva began operations in 2011, after receiving an undisclosed amount of financing from New Wave Ventures. The company is developing a pipeline that is initially focused on providing treatments for major hospital and community-based infections.

Multidrug-resistant Gram negative pathogens Discuva is interested in fighting include Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Acinetobacter baumannii, Klebsiella pneumoniae Escherichia coli and Neisseria gonorrhoeae, with the goal of treating urinary tract and respiratory infections as well as sepsis. The U.K.’s chief medical officer, Prof. Dame Sally Davies, has likened bacterial drug resistance.

Information generated by SATIN enables the company to prioritize chemical optimization of compounds deemed to have the best chance of clinical success.

Under their worldwide collaboration and license agreement, Roche agreed to pay Discuva $16 million upfront, plus up to $175 million per product developed, based on achieving undisclosed development, commercialization and sales milestones. Discuva will also receive royalties on sales of products developed through its collaboration WITH Roche’s Pharma Research and Early Development (pRED). Those royalties can reach double digits if products are based on the company’s early-stage antibiotic programs.

For Roche, the Discuva collaboration confirms the pharma giant’s return to the antibiotics specialty it left more than a decade ago. Roche first signaled renewed interest in antibiotics back in November, when it agreed to partner with Polyphor to develop and commercialize its Phase II-initiated investigational macrocycle antibiotic POL7080 for bacterial infections caused by Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a “superbug” commonly found in hospitals. That collaboration could net Polyphor up to CHF 500 million ($568 million).

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