Superbug antibiotics: Research and pipeline

While Big Pharma in general isn't putting much of its R&D might behind the lack of new antibiotics, GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca have some promising programs in development. GlaxoSmithKline has two in the pipeline, GSK1322322 (novel mechanism targeting peptide deformylase); and GSK2251052 (novel mechanism targeting leucyl-tRNA synthetase) a boron-based antibacterial being investigated against multi-resistant gram-negative bacteria.

AstraZeneca is partnering with others in its research. For example, last year the company licensed a new compound in development from Forest Laboratories. The drug has shown promise against a number of infections and multi-drug resistant pathogens, including MRSA. The company recently boosted its capabilities with a new facility in Boston, representing a $100 million investment in anti-bacterial research.

Sanofi, too, recently decided to fund antibiotic research in an acknowledgment that "the clinical need for new antibiotics is reaching crisis level, yet the antibiotic pipeline is running dry and fewer and fewer companies are working to develop drugs in this space," according to Elias Zerhouni, chief of global research and development at Sanofi. New Haven, CT-based Rib-X will be the beneficiary of Sanofi's decision, with the Big Pharma throwing $10 million upfront their way. Plus, another $9 million will go to Rib-X in near-term cash to support research work. And Sanofi will get to pick new products from Rib-X's RX-04 program, paying up to $186 million-plus in development and commercial milestones on each.

And over the next three years or so, several other smaller companies are expected to take up some of the slack, with Trius Therapeutics and Durata Therapeutics expected to be in the running to get U.S. approval for new antibiotics, according to a Bloomberg report.

Durata recently initiated a Phase III study of its lead product, dalbavancin, a long-acting, intravenous (IV) lipoglycopeptide for the treatment of acute bacterial skin and skin structure infections (abSSSI). Trius is working on torezolid phosphate (TR-701), a fast-acting, bactericidal 2nd generation IV and oral oxazolidinone for the treatment of serious gram-positive infections, including those caused by MRSA.

In Europe, a couple of EU-funded projects are working on new antibiotics. One project, NM4TB, is a collaboration of 18 research teams from 13 countries. They discovered a novel class of substances, called benzothiazinones (BTZ), that could be used in the treatment of tuberculosis and drug resistant tuberculosis. In addition, 18 research teams from 9 European countries and the Republic of Korea joined forces in a project called ActinoGEN to discover new antibiotics by looking at a group of bacteria called actinomycetes.

Superbug antibiotics: Research and pipeline

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