CARB-X dishes out $48M in grants to antimicrobial startups

CARB-X is making it rain.

The international antimicrobial consortium today announced grants totaling $48 million, spread across 11 companies in the U.S. and U.K.

Launched in mid-2016, CARB-X stands for Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria Biopharmaceutical Accelerator. It comes in response to the growing threat of drug-resistant infections — and the concerning lack of late-stage antibacterial drugs. As of March 2016, just 37 antibiotics were in clinical development for the U.S. market.

According to Thursday’s media release, CARB-X will spend up to $450 million from 2017-2021 to support innovative diagnostics and drugs in this field. More specifically, the accelerator aims to boost many preclinical programs that have the potential to move into human trials. By then, they’ll have a good shot at securing traditional forms of investment.

According to the CDC, some 20 million Americans are hit with a drug-resistant strain each year and 23,000 of those patients die. And the worst may be yet to come.

Federal initiatives, including the 2012 Generating Antibiotics Incentives Now Act (GAIN Act), are also underway. The GAIN Act creates a path for important antimicrobials to receive priority review, fast track designation, and a five-year extension of patent exclusivity.

Guy Macdonald, CEO of grant-winner Tetraphase, said the incentives for startups in this space are vital.

“For a small biotech company like ours, funding from these types of organizations is very important and helpful in continuing to advance our pipeline of novel antibiotics towards our ultimate goal of helping physicians and patients who are in urgent need of new treatment options,” Macdonald said in an email forwarded by a company representative.

The eleven recipients encompass three investigational new classes of antibiotics, four outside-the-box product ideas, and seven new molecular targets. That includes:

Cidara Therapeutics
San Diego, California

Awarded $3.9 million over 13 months, and potentially up to $3 million in the following 11 months for its Cloudbreak immunotherapy platform and lead candidate CD201, designed to treat serious multi-drug resistant bacterial infections.

ContraFect Corporation
Yonkers, New York

Awarded $1.1 million over 15 months, and potentially up to $1 million in the following nine months to progress antimicrobial lysins, which could combat drug-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa infections.

Entasis Therapeutics
Waltham, Massachusetts

Awarded $2.1 million over nine months, and potentially up to $4.2 million in the following 12 months to develop an oral antibiotic for Gram-negative bacterial infections, including carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE).

Forge Therapeutics
San Diego, California

Awarded $4.8 million over 15 months, and potentially up to $4 million in the following 18 months for its pioneering chemistry platform, which could deliver the first novel class of ‘superbug’ antibiotics in decades.

Microbiotix Inc  
Worcester, Massachusetts

Awarded $1.6 million over 12 months, and potentially up to $1.6 million in the following 12 months for its Type III secretion inhibitors that aim to boost the body’s ability to fight bacteria and potentiate host defenses against P. aeruginosa-resistant pneumonia patients.

Oppilotech Ltd
London, United Kingdom

Awarded $120,000 over six months to perform computational modeling to develop potentiators, which weaken the bacterial membrane and break antibiotic resistance.

Proteus IRC
Edinburgh, Scotland

Awarded $640,000 over 21 months, and up to $480,000 more in the following 20 months for its new optical imaging technology that could increase the speed and accuracy of diagnoses in bacterial lung infections.

Redx Pharma
Alderley Park, United Kingdom

Awarded $1 million over 18 months to progress novel bacterial inhibitors that target multi-drug resistant bacteria and serious hospital-acquired infections.

Spero Therapeutics
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Awarded $1.6 million over 12 months, and potentially up to $5.4 million in the following 24 months for its combination drugs aimed at disrupting the Gram-negative bacterial membrane, allowing antibiotics to reach their targets.

Tetraphase Pharmaceuticals
Watertown, Massachusetts

Awarded $4 million over 18 months to further  TP-6076, an investigational synthetic fluorocycline antibiotic that targets the most urgent multi-drug resistant Gram-negative bacteria.

Visterra
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Awarded $3 million over 12 months, and potentially up to $4.2 million in the following 12 months to develop an antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) engineered to kill strains of the deadly Pseudomonas bacteria.

The CARB-X collaborators include:

The U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), Britain’s philanthropic Wellcome Trust, the R&D Centre for Antimicrobial Research (AMR Centre), Boston University, MassBio, the California Life Sciences Institute (CLSA), and the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID).

The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard will host CARB-X and RTI International will provide technical and regulatory support services, through computing systems that can identify, track and monitor the research programs.

Photo: jarun011, Getty Images