CARB-X is awarding VenatoRx Pharmaceuticals, (Malvern, Pennsylvania, USA) up to US$4.1 million in non-dilutive funding, with the possibility of up to an additional US$8.9 million if certain project milestones are met, to develop a new class of oral antibiotics to treat infections caused by multi-drug-resistant (MDR) Neisseria gonorrhoeae.
Health officials have identified MDR gonorrhea, a sexually transmitted bacteria, as an urgent global public health threat, exacerbated by limited diagnostics and treatment options. Each year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 78 million people are infected with gonorrhea, which can cause pelvic inflammation and infect the genitals, rectum and throat. Additionally, gonorrhea can cause side effects in women such as ectopic pregnancy and infertility. In a survey of 77 countries, data show that antibiotic resistance is making gonorrhea much harder and sometimes impossible to treat ― 97% reported instances of drug-resistance to commonly used treatment regimens and 66% to cephalosporins, the remaining option for treatment.
“Neisseria gonorrhoeae are highly adept at avoiding the action of antibiotics that are meant to kill them. Some strains resist even last-resort antibiotics and these superbugs continue to build resistance at an alarming rate,” said Kevin Outterson, Executive Director of CARB-X, which is based at Boston University School of Law. “New treatments, like those being developed by VenatoRx, are urgently needed. CARB-X is supporting the VenatoRx project because it is the type of innovation that has the potential to make tremendous impact against the global threat of drug-resistant bacteria.” CARB-X is a consortium led by Boston University and funded by a global partnership.
“We are honored to be selected by CARB-X for a second award, this one addressing the urgent need for an oral antibiotic to treat gonorrhea around the globe,” said Christopher J. Burns, Ph.D., President and CEO at VenatoRx. “These funds will further support our novel non-beta-lactam Penicillin Binding Protein inhibitor (PBPi) program that has standalone activity against select gram-negative pathogens including Neisseria gonorrhoeae, which has been identified by WHO and CDC as one of the most critical priority targets. We thank CARB-X for their continued support and look forward to furthering our already existing partnership to combat antibiotic-resistant infections by bringing more effective antibiotics to market, improving the standard of care and ensuring our national and global health security.”
VenatoRx’s innovative antibiotic R&D
VenatoRx is developing an oral penicillin-binding protein inhibitor (PBPi) to address the growing problem of resistance in Neisseria gonorrhoeae to the last resort antibiotic for outpatient use, ceftriaxone. VenatoRx has identified non-beta-lactam transpeptidase inhibitors that are rapidly bactericidal, impervious to beta-lactamases, and show promising selective activity against gonococci, including both wild-type strains and isolates with PBP variants that confer ceftriaxone resistance. CARB-X funding will help VenatoRx progress these early molecules from hit-to-lead through IND-enabling studies.
Supporting innovation to address the global superbug crisis
CARB-X is investing up to $500 million between 2016-2021 to support the development of new antibiotics, rapid diagnostics, vaccines and other life-saving products. The goal is to support projects through the early phases of development – through Phase 1 for therapeutics – so that they will attract additional private or public support for further clinical development and approval for use in patients.
The CARB-X portfolio is the world’s largest antibacterial development portfolio with 32 active projects in five countries. Since its launch in 2016, CARB-X has announced 51 awards exceeding $154 million, with the potential of additional funds if project milestones are met, to accelerate the development of antibacterial products. These funds are in addition to investments made by the companies themselves. The CARB-X pipeline will continuously evolve, as projects progress and others fail for a variety of reasons.
CARB-X is led by Boston University and funding for the VenatoRx project is provided by the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), the Wellcome Trust, Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), and with in-kind support from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).
Source: Company Press Release