Drug developer Summit Therapeutics PLC (LON:SUMM, NASDAQ:SMMT) has been awarded a US$4.5mln grant from CARB-X to develop its antibiotic compounds for gonorrhoea.
CARB-X is a public-private partnership devoted to accelerating early antibiotic research and development.
Summit will receive an initial US$2.0mln in funding from CARB-X that will in part fund the selection of a preclinical candidate from Summit’s lead gonorrhoea series. The selection of a lead candidate is expected in the second half of 2018.
The remaining US$2.5mln is split into two option segments, which may be exercised by CARB-X upon the achievement of certain development milestones. If exercised in full, this funding could support the development of the selected gonorrhoea candidate through the end of a Phase 1 clinical trial.
“This CARB-X collaboration and funding is important to us as we aim to pioneer a new era in antibiotic innovation and allows us to accelerate the development of our first series of new mechanism of action gonorrhoea compounds,” said Glyn Edwards, the chief executive officer (CEO) of Summit.
“The award is a testament to the promise of our gonorrhoea programme, and the discovery capability of our proprietary genetics-based platform,” he added.
Resistance to antibiotics used to treat the STI is growing
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there are around 78mln new cases of gonorrhoea each year and the number of antibiotics that can combat Neisseria gonorrhoeae has now declined to just one treatment recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The WHO ranks as “high” the priority of research & development investment into the search for antibiotics that are effective against Neisseria gonorrhoea.
“Drug-resistant gonorrhoea is an urgent and growing public health problem around the world, affecting the health and quality of life of millions of people,” said Kevin Outterson, the executive director of CARB-X.
“The world urgently needs new antibiotics, like those that Summit is developing, and other life-saving products to protect us from drug-resistant bacteria. The projects in the Powered by CARB-X portfolio are in the early stages of development, but if successful, they offer tremendous potential in the fight against superbugs,” he added.
Speaking to Proactive Investors, Summit CEO Glyn Edwards said there had been "an innovation deficit" over the last two decades when it came to antibiotics.
"There has been no new class of antibiotics in 20 years," he explained. Moving from one antibiotic to another antibiotic in the same class has been the normal behaviour as microbes develop resistance to the previous treatments. Now, however, "the cupboard is bare", Edwards said.
Shares in Summit, which plummeted earlier this month when the company’s treatment for Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy (DMD) failed a clinical trial, rose 10% to 38.5p on the news.
Edwards acknowledged that the DMD test result was a severe blow to the company but it has now left the company focused entirely on novel antibiotics. "It's a much cleaner story," he said.
"It's true that most investors [in Summit] were most excited by the DMD treatment and those investors have now exited. Others are excited by the antibiotics story; it's potentially a huge value driver for the company," Edwards declared.