GSK partners with startup to develop antibiotic alternative


Fimbrion Therapeutics has been around since 2012, but it’s divulged very little about its research or its backers thus far. The St. Louis, MO-based preclinical startup has jumped into the limelight through a new partnership with GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK). The pair will focus on antibiotic-sparing drugs to prevent and treat urinary tract infections (UTIs).

The first-in-class, small molecule, bacterial antivirulence approach is designed to specifically target infection-causing bacteria but to leave the remainder of the microbiome, which is usually decimated by an antibiotic, intact.

"We are excited for this strategic relationship and partnership with GSK enabling the development of our first drug candidate,” said Fimbrion President Dr. Scott Hultgren in a statement. “This and other types of antibiotic-sparing therapeutics will be essential to prevent and treat increasingly prevalent infectious disease syndromes caused by antibiotic-resistant pathogens."

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This deal is the first one with a biotech startup for GSK’s Discovery Partnerships with Academia (DPAc) group, which is typically focused on translational research with academia. The partnership creates a joint project between Fimbrion and DPAc to develop a class of mannose-containing small molecule compounds called mannosides.

Fimbrion already has a pair of mannoside candidates that are in lead optimization ahead of preclinical research. Mannosides may be able to prevent and treat UTIs without triggering antibiotic resistance; they are thought to work by preventing bacteria from sticking to the walls of the bladder, which allows the body to naturally eliminate the infection. UTIs are the third most common indication for which antibiotics are prescribed, and an increasingly common indication for multidrug-resistant bacteria.

The startup’s first focus is on UTIs, but it expects to develop additional "narrow-spectrum" antimicrobial candidates for other bacterial infections. The startup is based on technology in-licensed from the Washington University.

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