Roche signs deal with Warp Drive to hasten antibiotic R&D
Roche has signed a deal with Warp Drive Bio to discover and develop new antibiotics, badly needed to combat the growing threat of multi-drug resistant bacteria.
Pharma has been criticised for failing to develop new antibiotics, but Roche’s move is a signal that this is beginning to change as governments and health systems have begun to make development of these drugs more of a priority.
The new deal sees Roche and Warp Drive embark on an ambitious project to discover the next wave of natural antibiotics.
Warp Drive will use its ‘Genome Mining’ technology to find multiple novel classes of antibiotics with activity against important, drug-resistant, Gram-negative bacteria.
Genome Mining allows access to natural product drugs that have not been analysed previously due to limitations of previous technologies.
There are currently ten classes of natural antibiotics approved for patients’ use, compared with five classes of synthetic antibiotics.
The last antibiotic from a novel natural class approved by the FDA was daptomycin, discovered more than 30 years ago.
Roche has an option for an exclusive worldwide licence to develop and market certain antibiotic classes emerging from the collaboration, triggered upon selection of a drug development candidate from the particular class.
Massachusetts-based Warp Drive will receive up to $87m in upfront payment, option fees and milestone payments for meeting preclinical targets and up to $300m in payments related to clinical, regulatory and sales milestones on products licensed to Roche. It will also receive tiered royalties up to around 10% on future net sales.
In the US, the FDA grants faster six-month reviews to drugs that are designated as a qualified infectious disease product (QIDP) – one of the latest products to get approved through this pathway was Rempex Pharmaceuticals’ Vabomere for complicated urinary tract infections and kidney infections.
Other companies which have made major investments in antibiotics research include Merck & Co, which acquired specialists Cubist Pharmaceuticals in 2014 for $8.4 billion.
Among its late-stage candidates is its beta-lactamase inhibitor, relebactam which is now in phase 3 trials in combination with existing treatments for complicated intra-abdominal infection (cIAI) or complicated urinary tract infection (cUTI).
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