CARB-X is funding a team of top German researchers to develop a drug to treat Staphylococcus aureus infections and prevent exacerbation of life-threatening pneumonia

CARB-X is funding a team of top German researchers to develop a drug to treat Staphylococcus aureus infections and prevent exacerbation of life-threatening pneumonia

  • 01/12/2020

Researchers from the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) and the Lead Discovery Center GmbH (LDC) could receive up to US$8.77 million from CARB-X to develop a new drug to disable S. aureuspathogens thereby preventing lung infections 

CARB-X is awarding up to US$1.33 million to a German team of researchers to develop a potent first-in-class drug to treat Staphylococcusaureusinfections and thereby prevent exacerbation of life-threatening pneumonia. The research team could be eligible for an additional $7.44 million from CARB-X if the project progresses and achieves certain milestones.

The drug is a small-molecule inhibitor of the S. aureusα-hemolysin, a virulence factor responsible for the bacterium’s pathogenicity and ability to cause infection and disease. The drug would disarm the pathogen’s most important toxin that causes damage to lung tissue and immune cells.  In doing so, the infection would be halted until the immune system, antibiotic or other therapy eliminates the harmful bacteria.

“Pneumonia caused by S. aureusis a significant health threat around the world, particularly for patients whose immune systems are compromised,” said Erin Duffy, R&D Chief of CARB-X, a non-profit partnership led by Boston University, and dedicated to funding and supporting the development of innovative products targeting antibiotic-resistant bacteria. “The HZI project is an innovative approach that, if successful, has the potential to offer improved treatment of S. aureusinfections around the world, particularly in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), and to save lives.”

The project has a strong intention to make the ultimate product available and suitable for use in both high-income countries and LMIC settings.  While much of the work to demonstrate usefulness in LMICs will be done in future stages of the program, there are some basic activities planned in this unit of work that will emphasize utility against S. aureus strains prevalent in LMICs and that will underscore the possibility of dosing regimens (i.e. oral administration) that are particularly important for use in LMICs.

“We urgently need better treatment options for patients with pneumonia caused by S. aureus,” said Mark Brönstrup, head of Chemical Biology at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI), who acknowledged CARB-X’s support as a vital boost for his research. “In the long term, however, we will not achieve this by killing the pathogens with antibiotics alone. Instead, we need preventive or accompanying therapies that prevent damage to the lungs by bacterial toxins.”

Brönstrup’s research is conducted in collaboration with the Lead Discovery Center GmbH (LDC), a spin-off of Max Planck Innovation and the Max Plank Society. Brönstrup also holds a professorship at the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF), based at the Leibniz University Hannover. Researchers will also collaborate with the African Partner Institutions (API) for the clinical development of the α-hemolysin (Hla) inhibitor. CARB-X funding will help researchers progress compounds through preclinical studies and if successful, onto clinical testing in humans.

“We are very pleased about the funding of CARB-X and the international recognition of our drug research at the HZI,” says Dirk Heinz, Scientific Director of the HZI.

“We look forward to the next phase in our close cooperation with the HZI, in which we will be advancing the α-haemolysin inhibitor project as rapidly as possible with the goal of developing a new drug for the treatment of patients with resistant S. aureusinfection,” said Dr. Bert Klebl, CEO & CSO of LDC.

CARB-X funding for the HZI project comes from the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), Wellcome Trust, Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), and the UK Global Antimicrobial Resistance Innovation Fund (GAMRIF).

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Supporting global antibacterial innovation to address drug resistance 

In a separate announcement today, CARB-X has awarded up to $6.31 million to another team of HZI researchers. The award went to the Helmholtz Institute for Pharmaceutical Research Saarland (HIPS) in Saarbrücken, Germany, to develop an innovative treatment for Pseudomonas aeruginosainfections in cystic fibrosis patients.