By Ben Adams
As it prepares to be subsumed in the $160 billion merger deal with Pfizer ($PFE), Ireland's Allergan ($AGN) is not backing away from making deals. The company unveiled a three-way pact with AstraZeneca ($AZN) this morning to develop a new antibiotic with the help of a U.S. government agency.
The deal will see Allergan partner with AZ to develop and market ATM-AVI, an investigational, fixed-dose antibiotic combining aztreonam and avibactam.
Both companies hope the combo treatment will help stop serious infections caused by metallo-β-lactamase-producing Gram-negative pathogens. This is a difficult-to-treat subtype of carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), for which there are currently limited treatments.
Under the terms of the agreement, Allergan will maintain commercialization rights in the U.S. and Canada while the Anglo-Swedish AZ will maintain commercialization rights in all other countries.
AZ is one of only a handful of big pharma companies still actively seeking to create new antibiotics, with Merck ($MRK), GSK ($GSK) and Roche ($RHHBY) the other major players.
Pharma has complained for many years that developing new antibiotics is not cost-effective for them as they typically do not get a return on investment, with many new antibiotics intentionally used sparingly and with a low price tag.
But the threat of microbial resistance--whereby bacteria are becoming impervious to older antibiotics, leaving humans potentially open to fatal infections that were once easily treatable--has seen global governments attempt new ways of working with pharma to help shore up a dwindling antibiotic pipeline.
The ATM-AVI drug is indicative of this new mindset, being the first candidate to be developed under a public-private partnership agreement between AZ and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA)--a part of the U.S. Department of Health.
Announced in September 2015, the goal of this alliance is to develop a portfolio of drug candidates over the next 5 years with dual uses in treating illnesses caused by bioterrorism agents and antibiotic-resistant infections.
The EU's Innovative Medicines Initiative, a partnership between the EU and the European pharmaceutical industry, is currently supporting the Phase II clinical study of ATM-AVI in Europe under a project called COMBACTE-CARE.
It is now joining BARDA and AZ in supporting global Phase III clinical development before seeking regulatory approval for the treatment.
|AZ's Hans Sijbesma|
Hans Sijbesma, managing director of the Antibiotics Business Unit at AstraZeneca, said: "This collaboration represents an important milestone in the development of ATM-AVI. Antimicrobial resistance is a huge global health challenge, which is increasingly at the forefront of the public health agenda. We look forward to working with health authorities to help bring this much-needed new treatment option to patients."