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UK biotech bags €1.5m grant for new antibiotic class

Procarta is one of four start-ups that received the grant

AMR

Procarta Biosystems has picked up €1.5m in funding to help develop a new antibiotic class that the UK company hopes could help fight antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

The cash injection comes from the Novo Holdings REPAIR Impact Fund, a €135m investment vehicle set up by Danish drugmaker Novo Nordisk last year specifically to advance research into new drugs to treat 12 families of bacteria that are considered ‘priority pathogens’ by international health bodies.

Procarta will use the new money to develop a pipeline of an entirely new class of antibiotic precision medicines from Procarta’s proprietary oligonucleotide-based antimicrobial platform, and is one of a handful of startups that the fund has backed along with Entasis, Minervax, and Polyphor.

The lead asset coming out of the UK firm’s transcription factor decoy platform is PRO-202, is in preclinical development to treat complicated urinary tract infections (cUTI) and complicated intra-abdominal infections (cIAI), focusing on a group of problem pathogens known collectively as ESKAPE – Enterococcus faecium, Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Acinetobacter baumannii, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Enterobacter species.

One of the main targets of the new class are the carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), which Procarta notes “kill up to half of the patients who develop bloodstream infections from these pathogens”. Carbapenem resistance is also growing exponentially, according to the biotech.

“If the industry keeps prosecuting the same antibiotic drug targets, we will get the same answers, i.e. growing antimicrobial resistance,” said Procarta CEO Andrew Lightfoot (pictured below), “At Procarta, we believe it is time to explore novel modalities and targets to precipitate a paradigm shift in antimicrobial research.”

Andrew Lightfoot

Among Novo fund’s other investments, US biotech Entasis received $10m in funding as part of its Nasdaq listing last September to help support its work on a new class of non-beta lactam PBP Inhibitors (NBP) targeting multi-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa infections.

Danish biotech Minervax claimed €3.6m for a prophylactic vaccine against Group B Streptococcus (GBS) responsible for 50% of life-threatening infections in newborns as well as stillbirths and preterm deliveries in pregnant women. And Swiss company Polyphor received around $11.5m to help it advance outer membrane protein targeting antibiotics (OMPTA) for resistant Gram-negative bacterial pathogens.

It has been estimated that the AMR threat could lead to 10 million extra deaths a year and cost the global economy up to £75trn by 2050, and the UK government has also been making funding available to companies with novel candidates in development.

The UK’s latest five-year plan is to make AMR “contained and controlled” by 2024, which will require co-operation between nations and the generation of new 'last line of defence' treatments.

Last week, Scottish biotech NovaBiotics was awarded a £1.8m grant from Innovate UK to help support the development of Novamycin, a first-in-class antifungal compound with potential to combat life threatening and drug resistant blood stream and tissue fungal infections. And last month Bicycle Therapeutics was awarded almost £500,000 for its penicillin binding  protein (PBP) programme.

Article by
Phil Taylor

6th March 2019

From: Research, Sales

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