Joining the resistance: Boehringer rounds up allies to build €40M anti-superbug startup

Boehringer Ingelheim is pumping 30 million euros ($31 million) into the fight against drug-resistant bacteria. Working with Evotec and bioMérieux, the German drugmaker has set up Aurobac Therapeutics, a biotech that will take a precision medicine approach to diagnosing and treating infections.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is threatening to undo decades of healthcare progress, with one forecast suggesting it could cause 10 million deaths a year by 2050. In response, Boehringer has taken a series of steps, investing 50 million euros in an AMR fund and committing a further 12 million euros to companies fighting drug-resistant microorganisms through its venture fund.  

Aurobac opens another front in Boehringer’s response. With Evotec and bioMérieux each committing 5 million euros, the startup begins life with 40 million euros and the support of founding organizations with expertise spanning the drug and diagnostic development processes. 

“The grim prospect of a post-antibiotic era has many causes but only one solution: The development of new, targeted and effective antimicrobial therapies. By leveraging Evotec’s multimodality approach to infectious diseases, we are confident that Aurobac will be able to generate much-needed progress to tackle the global challenge of AMR,” Evotec CEO Werner Lanthaler said in a statement.

Aurobac will work out of Lyon, France, where Evotec has an infectious disease research center created through its 2018 deal with Sanofi. With Boehringer bringing drug discovery and clinical trial capabilities and bioMérieux supporting diagnostics, Aurobac is designed to have the expertise needed to move past the era of broad-spectrum antibiotics.

The startup’s goal is to pair “new highly effective and targeted modalities” with “rapid and actionable diagnostics to quickly identify pathogens and their resistance patterns.” Aurobac acknowledges it will also need the support of “new economic models,” reflecting the business challenges that have dogged the few companies that have brought antibiotics to market in recent years.