Drug development firm forges deal with Bioversys to fight Gram-negative bacterial infections.

Drug development firm Aptuit has begun a joint collaboration with the Swiss biotech Bioversys that is aimed at the identification and validation of novel targets and molecules for Gram-negative bacteria. The partners hope that this will make it possible to combat antibiotic resistance in the treatment of serious infections. The deal followed on from an agreement made by Aptuit with Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in the same field.

Aptuit will bring to the partnership its experience in integrated infectious disease drug discovery, including in vitro and in vivo capabilities, complementing that of Bioversys in the transcriptional regulator area. The company claims to offer “the most complete set of integrated early discovery to mid-phase drug development services in the pharmaceutical industry”, including drug design and discovery, API development and manufacture, solid state chemistry, CMC and pre-clinical and IND-enabling GLP and GMP programs.

Bioversys is a spin off from work at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, ETH-Zürich, that is seeking to develop the TRIC (transcriptional regulator inhibitory compounds) antibiotic technology. TRIC identifies small molecules that interfere with mechanisms of resistance in bacteria, thus rendering them vulnerable again to drugs to which they had become resistant.

This approach could resurrect the use of many traditional drugs, with hospital infections and tuberculosis the main initial targets. Bioversys is already working with GlaxoSmithkline (GSK) and the University of Lille on the development of compounds to increase the efficacy of ethionamide in tuberculosis. A candidate drug for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis is now in clinical trials.

Aptuit’s collaboration with the laboratory of Processor Laurence Rahme at MGH’s Molecular Surgical Laboratory, which was announced in January, is similarly aimed at the identification and validation of novel targets in Gram-negative bacteria, notably P. aeruginosa. The two will seek to develop new approaches to antibiotic resistance in the treatment of serious infections. Rahme’s lab specializes in anti-virulence research.

In a separate field, Aptuit announced at the end of February that it had concluded a strategic drug discovery partnership with the Dementia Discovery Fund (DDF) to “kick-start small molecule drug discovery programs for novel dementia-related targets”.

The DDF is a venture capital fund focused on discovering and developing novel therapies for dementia. Investors in it include GSK, Biogen, Lilly, Takeda, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Otsuka subsidiary Astex, the UK Department of Health and the charity Alzheimer’s Research UK, who have appointed neuroscientists and heads of R&D to the board. It is managed by SV Life Sciences.

Aptuit, the DDF and other partners will run high-throughput screens on a 513,000 compound, central nervous system (CNS)-focused small molecule library that the DDF has acquired and which is now housed at Aptuit’s high-throughput screening facility in Basel, Switzerland. The library is said to be “biased towards compound properties favorable for CNS drug discovery” and with chemical properties favorable to blood-brain barrier penetration, which is crucial in dementia drugs.

The hope is that DDF’s expertise in CNS drug discovery and Aptuit’s general drug discovery capabilities will combine to good effect. Aptuit has wide experience in compound library management, high throughput screening, selectivity testing, hit characterization and discovery programs. As well as using the library itself, Aptuit will facilitate offsite screening or allow academic groups and early drug discovery companies to use it either on a fee-for-service basis through a newly established subsidiary or as part of an investment in DDF.