A major global partnership aimed at fighting superbugs announced Thursday that it is investing up to $48 million in research projects, including potentially the first new classes of antibiotics in decades, to target the deadliest drug-resistant bacteria.
The investments announced by CARB-X include $24 million in immediate funding for 11 companies. The firms can receive up to $24 million in additional payments over three years if they meet specific milestones.
The projects represent a broad range of approaches. Three companies are working on new classes of antibiotics, a significant development because the last class that made it to market was in 1984. Four companies are developing nontraditional therapeutics to boost the human immune response and disable pathogens’ ability to grow. Yet another company is pursuing a diagnostic imaging tool to identify the type of bacteria causing a lung infection within 60 seconds.
All the projects are in early stages of research, when risk of failure is high, officials said. CARB-X, which stands for Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria Biopharmaceutical Accelerator, was launched in July to stimulate such critical early-stage work. Its goal is to jump-start drug development with money and access to expertise, supporting companies with promising antibiotic candidates so they can attract enough private or public investment to advance development and eventually win regulatory approval.
Funding comes from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, part of the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Wellcome Trust, a London-based global biomedical research charity. CARB-X aims to invest $450 million over five years with the goal of speeding up preclinical discovery and development of at least 20 antibacterial products and moving at least two of them into human trials.
The partnership, which also includes academic, industry and other nongovernmental organizations, was created as part of the US and British governments’ calls for global efforts to tackle antibiotic resistance.