Just last week, MicuRx nabbed nearly $43 million in venture funding to expand its antibiotics pipeline and gear up for its first launch in China. Now, the Sino-American biotech is topping that up with $7.78 million from a nonprofit focused on antimicrobial resistance to push another asset into human trials.
The funding comes from Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria Biopharmaceutical Accelerator, or CARB-X, which previously funded IND-enabling studies for the prospect, dubbed MRX-8. The cash will bankroll a phase 1 study of the drug, a novel antibiotic in the polymyxin class, and cover “related R&D activities” for phase 2 trials.
First discovered in the 1940s, polymyxins have been used for decades to fight off infections caused by gram-negative bacteria. But their side effects, including acute kidney injury and neurological issues like dizziness and prickling sensations in various parts of the body, has sidelined them in favor of newer, less toxic antibiotics.
However, the rise of multidrug-resistant strains of gram-negative bacteria, such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Acinetobacter baumannii, has “forced” doctors to put polymyxins back in the mix, Swiss researchers wrote in a 2017 study.
MicuRx believes that MRX-8 could be even better than two commonly used polymyxins, polymyxin B and colistin, thanks to its safety profile. The drug showed “improved renal safety” in monkey studies, as well as better efficacy than polymyxin B in “certain nonclinical models of Gram-negative infections, such as urinary tract and lung infection in animal models,” the company says. Now, it has the cash to try to prove that out in humans.
Besides MRX-8, MicuRx has two other programs in its pipeline: contezolid, an oral antibiotic against gram-positive bacteria that has been filed for approval in China, and contezolid acefosamil, an oral and intravenous antibiotic for gram-positive bacteria. Both programs are in phase 2 studies in the U.S.
The funding comes a month after a laundry list of Big Pharma companies joined forces on a $1 billion fund to bolster the development of much-needed antibiotics.
Despite the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, very few antibiotics have been approved over the last 30 years. Multiple pharma companies, including Novartis, AstraZeneca and Eli Lilly, have bowed out of antimicrobials research, while smaller biotechs trying to fill the gap have struggled to stay afloat. In the span of one year, antibiotics makers Aradigm, Achaogen, Melinta and Tetraphase all filed for bankruptcy protection; all but Melinta had approved products.
The new fund, known as the AMR Action Fund, should be up and running by the fourth quarter and aims to see two to four new antibiotics through approval by 2030.