As global governments warn of the dire consequences of antimicrobial resistance, the north European biotech Allecra Therapeutics has raised its second load of cash as it looks to push on in the fight against multidrug-resistant gram-negative bacteria--which have grabbed headlines as some of the most dangerous superbugs around.
The biotech has raised €22 million ($24.7 million) in a series B round, led by a new investor Delos Capital. Existing investors Forbion Capital Partners, Edmond de Rothschild Investment Partners, EMBL Ventures and Allecra's co-Founder Nicholas Benedict also participated.
This builds on the €15 million ($19.6 million) it raised back in 2013 with its first round of funding.
The upstart said it will use the cash to fund Phase II trials for AI202, Allecra's antibiotic combo designed to treat drug-resistant Gram-negative bacterial infections. AAI202 puts β-lactam antibiotic together with its extended spectrum β-Lactamase inhibitor.
The combination is designed for use as broad-spectrum antibacterial therapy to treat hospitalized patients who contract infections caused by Gram-negative bacteria proven or suspected to express certain resistance mechanisms, particularly extended-spectrum β-lactamases (ESBLs).
The FDA has already granted QIDP status [Qualified Infectious Disease Product] for AAI202, including eligibility for fast-track designation in the U.S.
Nicholas Benedict, Allecra's CEO, said: "QIDP facilitates getting a potentially life-saving new antibiotic to patients in the USA. The FDA is not alone in recognizing that Gram-negative antibiotic resistance is a growing and a widespread epidemic, somewhat analogous to the situation with MRSA [methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus] during the last decade."
Holger Reithinger of Forbion Capital Partners and Allecra's chairman, added, "This series B investment into Allecra enables pursuit of the development program of AAI202, speeding the potential availability of AAI202 to patients who need it. Forbion is confident that Allecra can build on the already positive results for AAI202 and has invested in excess of our pro-rata share by deploying capital from both our main fund and now also from our latest co-invest fund."
These types of bacteria have been causing major concerns for doctors, health officials and the public--and has become a the poster boy of drug-resistant bacteria that cannot be treated with ageing antibiotics in the media.
Big Pharma has however been fairly hands off when it comes to developing new antibiotics, arguing that it doesn’t yield an ROI on its R&D and is happy instead focusing on low volume, high cost orphan drugs and profitable cancer treatments. Roche ($RHHBY) and Merck ($MRK) have however been cautiously stepping up their involvement in recent years, but others have been scaling back.
A number of biotechs, including Allecra, the U.K.’s Redx Pharma and the new upstart Iterum, are now helping to turn the tide of general inaction from the pharma industry toward marketing a new antibiotic--something that hasn’t happened in decades.
Many governments have grown tired of waiting, especially those in Europe as well as the World Health Organization, and have for some years been warning about the “silent apocalypse” awaiting the population if the current batch of marketed antibiotics become useless against bacteria that have evolved a resistance to a drug’s killing mechanism.
Last month, a new U.K. government report recommended that the global life sciences industry should be paid a substantial reward if they decide to develop new antibiotic treatments--but warn those who don’t will be subject to a penalty surcharge--all in an effort to boost R&D efforts with a stick and carrot approach (which was met with a mixed response from the U.K. life sciences industry).
The report, coming from the former Goldman Sachs chief economist Jim O'Neill, suggests that antimicrobial resistance could kill more people than cancer by 2050.
The U.S. government is looking to help share costs with drugmakers and biotechs as part of President Obama's 2014 push to build more defenses against antimicrobial resistance. But this is still not doing enough in the eyes of some. “The general pipeline of antimicrobials is not robust,” said Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA's drug evaluation center, in a Tuesday testimony before the House subcommittee.
But at the same meeting Dr. Richard Hatchett, acting director of the government’s biodefense agency and head of BARDA, said there are 7 drugs in advanced testing that may prove useful against Gram-negative bacteria.
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