Polyphor bags second grant in two years for a new class of antibiotics to fight drug-resistant bacteria
A year after receiving its first grant from Boston University’s CARB-X partnership, Swiss biotech Polyphor is back for more. It recently bagged a second award of up to $18.44 million for work on what it calls a new class of antibiotics to fight drug-resistant Gram-negative bacteria.
The grant includes $2.62 million for Polyphor’s “hit-to-lead” stage and $15.82 million in milestones.
Polyphor calls its class of antibiotics, discovered with the University of Zurich, Outer Membrane Protein Targeting Antibiotics (OMPTA). They target the lipopolysaccharide transport protein A, and have shown antimicrobial activity against drug-resistant strains of Enterobacteriaceae, which are among the WHO’s priority-1 pathogens, according to Polyphor.
But the journey hasn’t been easy. News of the grant comes just over a year after the biotech halted enrollment in a pivotal trial of its antibiotic murepavadin for nosocomial pneumonia due to high rates of acute kidney injury. Shares dropped 20% to just over $10 apiece when the halt was announced.
Now the company is developing murepavadin to fight a type of Gram-negative bacteria called Pseudomonas in cystic fibrosis patients. Its lead drug, a CXCR4 inhibitor called balixafortide, is currently in Phase III for metastatic breast cancer in combination with eribulin. In September, Fosun Pharmaceuticals paid Polyphor $15 million upfront for rights to develop and commercialize balixafortide for the Chinese market.
“Serious infections are a global health threat, due in part to the emergence of drug-resistant bacteria for which we do not have therapies,” CARB-X R&D chief Erin Duffy said in a statement. “Polyphor’s project enriches the pool of novel approaches to deliver a therapeutic that can treat infections caused by multidrug-resistant Gram-negative pathogens for which we have few options.”
CARB-X is a global partnership looking to spur the development of new antibacterial drugs. Despite increases in resistance to current antibiotics, Big Pharma has retreated from the risky field, fraught with cheap generics and poor financial returns.
“Never has the threat of antimicrobial resistance been more immediate and the need for solutions more urgent,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, said in a statement back in January.
“This award provides further support to our research efforts in progressing a new class of antibiotics to combat antimicrobial resistance, one of the greatest global challenges for healthcare,” Polyphor CEO Gokhan Batur said.