Polyphor snags $3.3M from Cystic Fibrosis Foundation for inhaled antibiotic

Polyphor picked up a $3.3 million award from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation to develop an inhaled antibiotic for lung infections that are often deadly in people with cystic fibrosis.

The funds will bankroll a phase 1b/2a study of an inhaled version of murepavadin, an antibiotic that targets multidrug-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa infections. The drug is currently delivered intravenously, so an inhaled version could make it possible to treat patients outside of a hospital or clinic setting.

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“A significant number of people with CF have multi-drug resistant strains of Pseudomonas each year that require IV antibiotics and hospitalization,” said J.P. Clancy, M.D., vice president of clinical research at the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, in a statement. “We hope to determine if the inhaled version of this new medicine could provide an alternative treatment option for people with CF that could potentially reduce their treatment burden.”

Murepavadin zeroes in on Pseudomonas, targeting its outer membrane, which could give it an edge over other inhaled antibiotics. The latter can usually fight off Pseudomonas infections, but because they target a broad spectrum of bacteria, can also contribute to the rise of antibiotic-resistant bugs.

After the company completes a study in healthy people, it expects to start the phase 1b/2a study in people with cystic fibrosis in the fourth quarter in 2021, according to the statement.

Polyphor’s funding comes five months after Big Pharma companies joined forces on a $1 billion fund to shore up the development of new antibiotics. Named for antimicrobial resistance, the AMR Action Fund aims to see two to four new antibiotics through approval by 2030.

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Despite the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and the need for new antimicrobial agents, very few antibiotics have been approved in the past 30 years. Pharma companies including Novartis, Eli Lilly and AstraZeneca have backed out of the space, thanks to the difficulty of developing new classes of drugs and the reality that new antibiotics should be given sparingly to keep drug-resistant bugs at bay. The small biotechs that have tried to fill the gap tend to struggle, for the same reasons. In the span of one year, antibiotics makers Aradigm, Achaogen, Melinta and Tetraphase all filed for bankruptcy protection; all but Melinta had approved products.