CARB-X, a public–private initiative established last year to support the global development of novel antibacterial drugs that address multidrug-resistant (MDR) infections, announced a second $17.6 million tranche of funding that will be shared by scientists in India, Ireland, France, Switzerland, the U.S., and the U.K.

The seven supported projects include five potential antibiotics targeting Gram-negative bacteria, a new treatment for drug-resistant gonorrhea, a new drug molecule that targets resistance in cystic fibrosis infections, and Phase I development of an oral, broad-spectrum antibiotic.

CARB-X (Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria Biopharmaceutical Accelerator) is a partnership between the U.K.’s Wellcome Trust charity and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA). The National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) provides preclinical support.

The latest round of awards is part of a $455 million commitment by the U.S. Government and the Wellcome Trust over five years. The first 11 projects to receive funding were confirmed in March, and additional funding announcements are expected later this year.   

CARB-X executive director Kevin Outterson, who is professor of law at Boston University, stressed that combatting the threat of antibiotic resistant bacteria will require greater global and private support. “Drug-resistant infections are complex and developing new antibiotics is challenging, timely, and costly,” Outterson stated. ”But restoring the R&D pipeline is vital to address the seriously increasing threat of superbugs that have become resistant to existing drugs….We are especially pleased that today’s awards mean we are now supporting scientists in six countries. The projects offer exciting potential. But we need greater global support from governments, industry, and civil society to get the new treatments the world urgently needs.”

BARDA director Rick Bright, Ph.D., added, “The support announced today will help speed development of new antibacterial products to treat patients with serious, life-threatening infections to enhance domestic health security and global preparedness. We are committed to revitalizing the antibacterial pipeline through a combination of incentives. Today’s announcement is another example of our commitment to promote and accelerate medical countermeasure innovation through novel public–private partnerships like CARB-X.”

Additional partners of CARB-X include the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council (MassBio), the California Life Sciences Institute (CLSI), and RTI International.

Seven projects have been granted awards under the second tranche of funding announced today:

Achaogen (initial investment of up to $3.2 million with potential option payments of up to $8.2 million). The CARB-X funding will support Phase I clinical trials with San Francisco-based Achaogen’s lead LpxC inhibitor for treating multidrug-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

Antabio (initial investment of up to $2.8 million with potential option payments of up to $6.1 million). The CARB-X funding will support the French firm’s program to develop Pseudomonas elastase inhibitors (PEIs) that can be administered alongside antibiotics. PEIs are designed to block the Pseudomonas aeruginosa (PA) LasB elastase virulence factor and prevent the organism from evading the immune system.

Bugworks Research India (initial Investment of up to $2.6 million, with potential option payments of up to $3.5 million). Bugworks is developing a novel, first-in-class broad-spectrum gyrase-topoisomerase inhibitor against MDR Gram-negative bacteria. The firm separately today reported signing a two-year agreement to license Optibrium’s StarDrop™ software to support its drug discovery research.

Debiopharm International (initial investment of up to $2.6 million, with potential option payments of up to $1.4 million). Swiss firm Debiopharm is working with CARB-X to develop a novel antibiotic class that inhibits bacterial fatty acid biosynthesis in pathogens, including MDR Neisseria gonorrhoeae. The new funding will be used to progress Debio 1453, a Fabl inhibitor specifically targeting N. gonorrhoeae.

EligoChem (initial investment of up to $1.5 million with potential option payments of up to $3.3 million). The CARB-X funding will support U.K.-based EligoChem’s selection of a lead helical antimicrobial peptide candidate that exhibits potent activity against Gram-negative organisms, and which demonstrates low resistance potential and toxicity. 

Iterum Therapeutics (investment of up to $1.5 million). CARB-X funding is supporting Dublin, Ireland-based Iterum in its development of the antibiotic candidate sulopenem for treating serious community- and hospital-acquired MDR infections, including pathogens that cause uncomplicated urinary tract infections, complicated urinary tract infections, and complicated intra-abdominal infections.

VenatoRx Pharmaceuticals (initial investment of up to $3.4 million with potential option payments of up to $6 million). Malvern, PA-based VenatoRx is developing a new class of beta-lactam antibiotics that are resistant to bacterial beta-lactamase enzymes and are effective against MDR Gram-negative organisms that cause complicated urinary tract infections, complicated intra-abdominal infections, and pneumonia.

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