Report: Antibiotics pipeline lackluster as resistance surges

As antibiotic resistance grows in the U.S. with the rise in increasingly deadly bacteria, nicknamed "nightmare bacteria," a new report has identified that only 7 drugs are in development to combat these superbugs.

The latest report by the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), released on Thursday and published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, says the 7 drugs currently in development do not address the entire spectrum of resistance to gram-negative bacilli (GNB) bacteria--which includes E. coli, salmonella, and Shigella as well as enterobacteriaceae bacteria. In March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned against a particularly lethal kind of GNB called carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae, which spreads in healthcare facilities and kills up to half of patients who get bloodstream infections from them.

"We're losing ground because we are not developing new drugs in pace with superbugs' ability to develop resistance to them," Dr. Helen Boucher, lead author of the policy paper and a member of IDSA's board of directors, said in a statement.

Since the organization's 2009 pipeline status report, only two new antibiotics have gained approval, and the report points out that the number of new antibiotics annually approved for marketing in the U.S. continues to decline. According to the report, only four large multinational companies remain in antibiotic R&D, including AstraZeneca ($AZN), which has two of the 7 drugs in development. Recently, its CEO, Pascal Soriot, announced plans to reduce its future investments in antibiotics. Meanwhile, PolyMedix--which has one of the 7 drugs in development noted in the report--filed for bankruptcy protection earlier this month.

Since penicillin hit the market in the 1940s, bacteria have been developing resistance to the drug, and researchers have since created new generations of antibiotics. Over the years, the overprescription and misuse of antibiotics has contributed to resistance in the U.S.

The crisis represents an opportunity for drug development in antibiotics, and the field seems to have piqued investor interest. Just this morning, antibiotics startup Allecra Therapeutics snagged €15 million ($19.6 million) in a Series A round of venture financing.

One company seeking to make its mark as an antibiotics maker, Tetraphase Pharmaceuticals ($TTPH), just went public.

To address the pipeline problem, the IDSA is looking into the creation of a Limited Population Antibacterial Drug approval pathway to speed drugs to approval as well as new R&D tax credits and reimbursement models.

- here's the IDSA report
- read the press release
- get Reuters' take