Scaled funding finances discovery and development of first-in-class biodefense antibiotics.
In an effort to create front-line defenses against emerging drug-resistant bacterial bioweapons, the Department of Defense’ Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) awarded VenatoRx Pharmaceuticals up to $16 million in potential funding to support the discovery and preclinical development of first-in-class antibiotics for biodefense applications.
According to VenatoRx, which is a privately held company, the DTRA project derives from their proprietary platform of non-beta-lactam penicillin binding protein inhibitors (PBPIs). Beta-lactamase enzymes are expressed by bacteria and provide an efficient means to inactivate common beta-lactam antibiotics such as penicillin.
Citing that currently more than 2,000 beta-lactamase enzymes have been identified, VenatoRx’s Co-founder and Senior VP of Biology, Daniel Pevear, noted “A non-beta-lactam class of antibiotics would circumvent more than 70 years of clinical bacterial resistance and represents a powerful countermeasure for first-line treatment of infections caused by potential drug-resistant bacterial bioweapons, including Burkholderia spp., Yersinia pestis, and Francisella tularensis.”
Founded in 2010, the company has focused on the discovery and development of novel therapies for highly drug-resistant bacterial infections. Its lead clinical program combines VNRX-5133, a novel, broad-spectrum β-lactamase inhibitor, with a market-available β-lactam antibiotic.
The project is supported by DTRA under Contract No. HDTRA117C0070. Under the project’s terms, the award provides up to $5.1 million during an initial base period and up to $16 million to fund continued development of promising candidates. “We are very pleased and grateful to DTRA for their support and validation of this ground-breaking program,” said Christopher Burns, Co-founder, and VenatoRx’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “Bacterial drug resistance is a critical health issue and innovative new classes of antibiotics are urgently needed,” he noted.