CARB-X is funding a German team of scientists to develop a new treatment for difficult-to-treat Pseudomonas aeruginosa infections in cystic fibrosis patients

CARB-X is funding a German team of scientists to develop a new treatment for difficult-to-treat Pseudomonas aeruginosa infections in cystic fibrosis patients

  • 01/12/2020

Helmholtz Institute for Pharmaceutical Research Saarland (HIPS) team could receive up to US$6.31 million if all milestones are successfully met  

CARB-X is awarding up to US$1.75 million to the Helmholtz Institute for Pharmaceutical Research Saarland (HIPS) in Saarbrücken, Germany, to develop an innovative treatment for Pseudomonas aeruginosainfections in cystic fibrosis patients. The project could be eligible for up to $4.56 million more in awards if project milestones are met. The new treatment – indirect-acting small-molecule inhibitors of Elastase (LasB) – aims to disarm pathogens and suppress the disease-causing properties of P. aeruginosabacteria, instead of killing the bacteria as an antibiotic would aim to do.

The research team is led by Professor Anna Hirsch, head of Drug Design and Optimization at HIPS, which is part of Germany’s prestigious Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) in collaboration with Saarland University. The team is also collaborating with partners at the Paris-based INSERM institute, as well as the HZI in Braunschweig.

Patients with cystic fibrosis suffer from severe cough and lack of oxygen. Their lungs accumulate a thick mucus, making it easier for pathogens like P. aeruginosa to lodge and reproduce. The result is a chronic inflammation of the lung, eventually leading to the degradation of lung tissue. The situation becomes particularly exacerbated when the disease-causing germs are resistant to front-line antibiotics.

“The rise of antibiotic resistance in pathogens like P. aeruginosais a global health threat and it is particularly threatening for people with cystic fibrosis who are susceptible to bacterial infections,” saidErin Duffy, R&D Chief of CARB-X,a global non-profit partnership led by Boston University and dedicated to funding and supporting the development of innovative products to address antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections. “The HIPS project is in the early stages of development and holds particular promise because, if successful, it would block or disable the infection-causing capabilities of this pathogen.  As the second LasB program in our portfolio, the HIPS project also will aid in our efforts to unlock the value of non-traditional approaches for the delivery of novel treatments for infections caused by antibiotic-resistant pathogens.”

Professor Hirsch’s non-traditional ‘pathoblocker’ approach of disarming the P. aeruginosabacteria could significantly slow the development of resistance in the bacteria. By disarming the pathogens instead of killing them, selection pressure on the pathogens is relieved and resistance is likely to develop more slowly. Professor Hirsch and her team hope their approach could improve the life expectancy and quality of life of cystic fibrosis patients infected with P. aeruginosa.

According to Professor Rolf Müller, Managing Director of the HIPS, said: “The development of antimicrobial resistance is not a question of ‘if’, but a question of ‘when’. If we just render the pathogens harmless instead of killing them, we do not put any selection pressure on them and resistance is likely to develop much slower. Pathoblockers give us the opportunity to make an important step forward in the arms race with the pathogens.”

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In a separate announcement today, CARB-X announced an award to another team of HZI researchers. CARB-X announced it is funding researchers from the HZI and the Lead Discovery Center GmbH (LDC) up to US$8.77 million to develop a potent first-in-class drug to disable Staphylococcus aureus pathogens thereby preventing and treating pneumonia and lung infections.