AMR Centre picks up Medivir’s superbug-busting candidate

Alderley Park
AMR Centre is based in Alderley Park.

AMR Centre has licensed a program from Medivir. The metallo-beta-lactamase inhibitors (MBLI) are designed to inactivate the NDM-1 mechanism, rendering drug-resistant bacteria vulnerable to beta-lactam antibiotics.

Public-private partnership AMRC will now advance the research-stage program from its base at the old AstraZeneca site at Alderley Park. AMRC will give Medivir a cut of any money it makes from the licensing, sale or commercialization of the recently transferred knowledge and compounds.

Plenty of work stands between AMRC and such earnings. But in licensing compounds with the potential to tackle the NDM-1 resistance mechanism, it has taken the first steps on a route that could lead to it addressing a major public health threat. 

Bacteria containing NDM-1 have spread around the world since first being identified in India in 2008. The alarm caused by the spread of the gene stems from its ability to render bacteria resistant to carbapenems, the beta-lactam antibiotics doctors use to blast bugs that are invulnerable to their traditional weapons. 

Some VCs and biotechs have responded to the threat with money and R&D attention. VenatoRx Pharmaceuticals picked up $42 million in series B funds in July to take a drug designed to inhibit the four major classes of beta‐lactamase resistance enzymes—including metallo‐beta‐lactamases such as NDM-1—through to registration.

AMRC thinks the work done by Medivir suggests the compounds it has licensed have a shot at making it that far, too.  
“Medivir has done a lot of very good science and we are delighted to be able to take forward the MBLI program aiming to address important emerging resistance mechanisms and targeting drug-resistant Gram-negative pathogens on the WHO's critical priority list,” Peter Jackson, Ph.D., executive director at AMRC, said in a statement. 

The deal comes weeks after AMRC entered into a co-development agreement with Microbiotix.  

For Medivir, the deal continues its retreat from infectious diseases. The sector was a cornerstone of Medivir until Gilead’s Sovaldi blew a hole in its hepatitis C plans, prompting it to lay off 30 people and refocus on cancer 12 months ago. Since then, Medivir has tried to sell off what was left of its infectious disease pipeline, leading to a deal with Ascletis and today’s agreement with AMRC.