First Australian project in the CARB-X portfolio

First Australian project in the CARB-X portfolio

  • 22/06/2020

CARB-X is awarding up to US$3.83 million to The University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience, Brisbane, Australia, to develop a new class of antibiotics to treat serious drug-resistant bacterial infections. 

The Institute will be eligible for an additional $7.03 million if the project meets certain development milestones, for a total award of up to $10.86 million.

The University of Queensland’s project aims to identify Octapeptin cyclic peptides that maintain their antibacterial potency against polymyxin-resistant Gram-negative pathogens, but have fewer side effects.  The goal is to develop a safer antibiotic to replace last-resort polymyxin class antibiotics, such as colistin, that are used to treat life-threatening drug-resistant infections for which no other antibiotics will work. Last-resort polymyxin class antibiotics can cause severe kidney and neurological side effects.

The peptide will be developed for treatment of a range of serious infections including complicated urinary tract and intra-abdominal infections, as well as pneumonia.

This is the first CARB-X award to an entity in Australia. The University is also the first academic institution to secure CARB-X funding for a drug development project.

Drug-resistance represents an increasing global threat to human health. Innovative approaches, like the novel antibiotic peptides being developed by the University of Queensland, are urgently needed to address this crisis,” said Erin Duffy, Chief of Research and Development of CARB-X. “In our hospitals today, patients are being treated with last-resort antibiotics that can cause damaging side effects, and in some cases, do not even cure the infection. We are in a race against superbugs, and if the University of Queensland project is successful, it has the potential to treat drug-resistant infections safely and effectively, and to save lives.”

The project’s chemistry leader Dr. Karl Hansford said: “Use of polymyxin, a last-line antibiotic, has surged in recent years due to the lack of new antibiotics in the pipeline, but it has severe side-effects. Low doses are required to avoid toxicity but low doses can be ineffective against infection and can promote antibiotic resistance.

“We’ve demonstrated that our Octapeptin-X (OPX) antibiotics exert a unique killing action, positioning OPX as an ideal development candidate for the safe and effective treatment of drug-resistant infections deemed untreatable by conventional therapies, including polymyxin.”

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