Spero Therapeutics said it has won up to $6.8 million from the Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Accelerator (CARB-X) toward screening, identifying, and completing Phase I trials with at least one partner compound for the company’s lead Potentiator candidate, SPR741.

The award commits funding of at least $1.5 million, and potentially up to $6.8 million tied to achieving milestones established by CARB-X.

SPR741, also called Potentiator, is a Phase I candidate that uses a platform approach to combination therapy in order to treat multidrug-resistant Gram-negative infections such as Enterobacteriaceae and Acinetobacter baumannii, including carbapenem-resistant strains. SPR741 is designed to increase the spectrum and potency of more than two dozen classes of Gram-positive antibiotics to include activity against multidrug-resistant Gram-negative infections when used in combination.

Preclinical studies of SPR741 in combination with Gram-positive antibiotics have shown success in reducing the bacterial burden of infections caused by several common drug-resistant pathogens, including Escherichia coli, Acinetobacter baumannii, and Klebsiella pneumoniae. Spero has reported the preclinical broad-spectrum efficacy, safety, and pharmacokinetics of SPR741 in 14 posters and an oral presentation at the American Society for Microbiology’s ASM Microbe 2016 conference, held in Boston.

“Our collaboration with CARB-X allows us to broaden our understanding of SPR741’s potential to expand the capabilities of current antibiotics, as well as those still under development,” Troy Lister, Ph.D., Spero’s head of chemistry, said yesterday in a statement. “The resources and support available through CARB-X makes a project of this magnitude feasible and will ultimately help accelerate our efforts to deliver new treatments to patients.”

CARB-X was launched in August with funds from the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), the NIH’s NIAID and the U.K.'s Wellcome Trust. CARB-X is a charitable, global, public-private partnership led by Boston University School of Law. Other partners include the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, MassBio, the California Life Sciences Institute, and RTI International.

Founding members of CARB-X have committed $450 million through 2021 toward development of new antibacterial drugs. CARB-X aims to move promising antibacterial candidates through early product development stages, with the goal of attracting additional private or public investment for clinical-stage development. The accelerator says it is the world’s largest public-private partnership devoted to antibacterial preclinical R&D.

As part of CARB-X, Spero said, it will have access to NIAID preclinical services and resources, as well as additional wrap-around business and drug development support services from leaders in the world’s most innovative biotech hubs in Boston, California, and London.

Projects selected to join the Accelerator’s “Powered by CARB-X” portfolio were chosen through a competitive process. All projects must target one of the deadly antibiotic-resistant bacteria that the CDC has classified as urgent or serious threats and which are increasingly resistant to most available antibiotics.

SPR741 is one of Spero’s two lead programs; the other is SPR994, a novel oral agent that according to the company has shown potent in-vitro activity against a wide variety of Gram-negative bacteria, including extended-spectrum beta lactamases (ESBLs), and Gram-positive bacteria.

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