SNIPR shoots down resistant E. coli in first human trial


SNIPR Biome has said its CRISPR therapeutic targeting a problem bacterial pathogen has shown proof-of-concept in a phase 1 trial, raising hopes of a new way to treat resistant infections as conventional antibiotics lose their potency.

The Danish biotech’s SNIPR001 drug – delivered using a bacteriophage carrier – was able to “target and remove” Escherichia coli in the human gastrointestinal tract, including resistant strains of the bacteria.

The study enrolled 36 healthy individuals who were treated with one of three doses of SNIPR001 given orally over seven days. The therapy was well tolerated, with only mild to moderate side effects, according to SNIPR, and led to a reduction in E. coli levels in faeces.

While still preliminary, the findings of the study raise the hope that CRISPR-based therapeutics may be able to selectively remove specific bacteria from the microbiome, avoiding the blanket effects of antimicrobial therapy that can also kill beneficial bacteria, contributing to side effects and potentially allowing other illnesses to develop.

In turn, the approach could help limit the threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) that, according to some predictions, could claim 10 million lives a year by 2050.

SNIPR’s approach straddles two of the hottest topics in biotech: the microbiome and gene-editing. It also bundles in the use of a phage – viruses that solely and selectively target and kill bacteria – which is another area garnering attention as a potential solution for the AMR crisis.

“With the combined killing effects of bacteriophages and CRISPR-Cas technology, SNIPR001 has demonstrated the ability to target and eliminate antibiotic-resistant E. coli strains in the gut, providing a safe alternative to traditional treatments that do not work against antibiotic-resistant strains, while sparing the rest of the gut microbiome,” said SNIPR’s chief executive and co-founder, Dr Christian Grøndahl.

The biotech will now turn its attention to clinical trials to see if SNIPR001 can reduce the rate of infections in blood cancer patients undergoing high-dose chemotherapy as part of a bone marrow transplant procedure, who are at high risk of E. coli crossing from the GI tract into the bloodstream.

There are estimated to be around 35,000 life-threatening infections of this type each year in the US and Europe. At the moment, doctors try to prevent the infections using fluoroquinolone antibiotics, which are ineffective against resistant strains and damage the microbiome.

SNIPR said it will also accelerate its work on an intravenous version of SNIPR001 that could be used to treat established, systemic E. coli infections.