Big Pharma-backed $1B AMR Action Fund picks 1st antimicrobial biotech investments

The AMR Action Fund, backed by Big Pharmas such as Pfizer, Eli Lilly, Bayer and more, has selected the first beneficiaries of its $1 billion fund to address drug-resistant bacterial infections: Adaptive Phage Therapeutics and Venatorx Pharmaceuticals.

The two small biotechs will become the first portfolio companies of the AMR Action Fund, an initiative formed in collaboration with the World Health Organization, the European Investment Bank and the Wellcome Trust. Other pharma members include GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co., Merck KGaA, Novartis, Roche, Takeda, Teva and many more. The fund boasts $1 billion to advance antimicrobial treatments through investments in clinical-stage companies working on antibiotics. The exact investment granted to each company was not disclosed. 

Adaptive Phage has several therapies in phase 1/2 development for prosthetic joint infection, recurring urinary tract infection and others. The biotech has developed a library of bacteriophages and naturally occurring viruses that can kill bacteria.

The AMR Action Fund contribution is being treated as an extension to the company’s series B, which raised $40.75 million last year.

Venatorx is a little further along in the clinic, with the company announcing last month that the antibiotic cefepime-taniborbactam hit the main goal in a phase 3 study. An FDA filing for approval to treat urinary tract infections with the beta-lactamase inhibitor is expected by the end of the year. The intravenous treatment is also being studied in hospital-acquired bacterial pneumonia and ventilator-associated bacterial pneumonia.

The FDA previously granted Venatorx qualified infectious disease product and fast-track designations, which provide five years of exclusivity and a quick regulatory review, respectively.

Venatorx is receiving the AMR Action Fund investment as part of its series C round, which was also announced today. The company did not disclose the round's full funding tally but said that AMR Action Fund was the lead investor.

The cash will help Venatorx advance its antibacterial portfolio, including regulatory activities for cefepime-taniborbactam. The oral antibiotic combination of ceftibuten with VNRX-7145 will also receive a boost.

Venatorx previously received funding from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the Wellcome Trust, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority and other government agencies. In November 2021, Venatorx entered a licensing and research agreement with Roche to develop small molecule drugs targeting gram-negative bacteria.

The AMR Action fund will provide about $100 million in capital this year, according to AMR Action Fund CEO Henry Skinner. He urged policymakers around the world to enact market reforms to further help the mission of combating drug-resistant pathogens.