Roche inks a $750M antibiotics deal as it re-embraces the field

Roche Vice President Janet Hammond

Following through on its sweeping return to antibiotics R&D, Roche ($RHHBY) has agreed to pay up to $750 million to get its hands on an early-stage drug that helps existing treatments battle drug-resistant infections.

The deal, with Meiji Seika Pharma and Fedora, gives Roche the ex-Japanese rights to OP0595, a Phase I beta-lactamase inhibitor. The drug works in tandem with traditional antibiotics to break down treatment resistance and fight severe infections caused by Enterobacteriaceae, Roche said.

In exchange, Meiji and Fedora are getting an undisclosed up-front sum plus the promise of milestone payments tied to development and regulatory success, totaling as much as $750 million.

For Roche, buying into OP0595 is the latest move in its high-profile return to antibiotics. Like much of Big Pharma, the company gradually lost interest in the field years ago thanks to diminishing returns in R&D. But, considering the of-late escalation in hospital-acquired infections around the world and an alarmingly sparse pipeline across the industry, the drugmaker is splashing back into the space with multiple deals and development programs.

"There is an urgent need for new antibiotics able to combat the increasing resistance to antibiotics that is being seen worldwide," Janet Hammond, head of infectious diseases at Roche's pRED research operation, said in a statement. "Roche has a strong legacy in antibiotics and this collaboration demonstrates we are continuing to execute on our commitment. This beta-lactamase inhibitor has the potential for an expanded spectrum against multi-drug resistant bacteria and could be a much needed option for patients suffering from difficult-to-treat infections."

The latest deal follows a 2013 agreement with Polyphor in which Roche paid $40 million up front and promised up to $520 million more for a Phase II anti-infective. Last year, the company struck a deal with Discuva, borrowing the biotech's informatics-enabled discovery platform and pledging to pay up to $175 million per resulting drug. Roche also got in on the ground floor with Atlas Venture startup and Fierce 15 honoree Spero Therapeutics, partnering up on an early-stage treatment for Gram-negative bacterial infections.

- read the statement (PDF)

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