Spero Therapeutics said today it was won a $1.65 million award from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) toward developing its anti-infective Potentiator program and advancing the best candidates toward clinical phases.

The award will fund a study designed to assess how well several candidates in Spero’s Potentiator program enhance the antibacterial activity of current antibiotics against multidrug-resistant (MDR) pathogens—such as Acinetobacter baumannii, Klebsiella pneumoniae, and Escherichia coli—in collaboration with the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR).

Spero said study results will help the company identify promising antibiotic combinations to treat MDR, Gram-negative pathogens in future clinical studies.

“Spero is seeking to improve the potency and enhance the utility of many classes of new or existing antibiotics by combining them with our Potentiator candidates, which enable the antibiotic to penetrate the pathogen’s outer cell wall,” Spero CEO Ankit Mahadevia, M.D., said in a statement.

Spero’s Potentiator Program consists of candidates designed to disrupt the cell membrane of Gram-negative bacteria and thus permit access of antimicrobial agents previously only active against Gram-positive pathogens. Molecules are designed to disrupt the cell wall of Gram-negative bacteria, permitting antimicrobial agents for Gram-positive bacteria access through the periplasm and cytoplasmic membrane.

Earlier this year, Spero presented preclinical efficacy, safety, potency, mechanism of action, and dosing data related to SPR741, the Company’s lead Potentiator candidate, at the American Society for Microbiology’s ASM Microbe 2016 meeting, held June 16–20 in Boston.

Including the DoD award, Spero has won more than $60 million in funding in just over a year.

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