DTRA funding will evaluate and optimize compounds from marine natural product libraries.

Trius Therapeutics has been awarded a four and a half year contract from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) for the development of novel antibiotics directed against Gram-negative bacterial pathogens. The company may receive up to $29.5 million under this contract, which is funded as part of DTRA’s Transformational Medical Technologies Initiative (TMTI).

Trius will apply its Focused Antisense Screening Technology (FAST) discovery platform to identify targets of antibacterial compounds from marine natural product libraries developed in the laboratory of William Fenical, Ph.D., distinguished professor of oceanography at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.

It will then employ its structure-based drug design and development capabilities in an effort to optimize promising antibacterial compounds for activity against biodefense pathogens such as Yersinia pestis, Francisella tularensis, and Burkholderia pseudomallei. Trius believes that these compounds will also be active against Gram-negative pathogens involved in common hospital acquired infections.

This is the second government-funded research contract that has been awarded to Trius. In October 2008, the company reported a five-year contract with the NIAID under which it may receive up to $27.7 million to develop antibiotics also directed against the same Gram-negative bacterial pathogens as the DTRA contract. Trius will develop molecules targeting bacterial DNA gyrase and topoisomerase IV.

Trius’ lead candidate, torezolid phosphate, is an IV and orally administered second-generation oxazolidinone being developed for the treatment of Gram-positive infections. There is only one approved first-generation oxazolidinone, Pfizer’s Zyvox, which is currently the leading branded antibiotic for serious Gram positive infections, with reported worldwide sales of $1.1 billion in 2008, according to Trius. The firm is preparing to initiate Phase III trials in acute bacterial skin and skin structure infections. It is also currently conducting preclinical testing of antibiotics to treat infections caused by bacteria of the Gram-negative category.

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