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STEVENAGE, U.K.—Auspherix, an anti-infectives company involved in the discovery and development of a new class of organogold-based antibiotics for serious, difficult-to-treat or potentially life-threatening infections, is using funding from Innovate UK, the United Kingdom’s innovation agency, to expand into new therapeutic indications and test the activity of its compounds. Auspherix plans to test the organogold-based antibiotics against bacteria that cause respiratory infections, including life-threatening lung infections such as hospital-acquired bacterial pneumonia (HABP).
Innovate UK works with people, companies and partner organizations to find and drive the science and technology innovations that will grow the U.K. economy. It drives productivity by helping to realize the potential of new technologies, develop ideas and make them a commercial success. Headquartered in Swindon, U.K., the organization works with companies to de-risk, enable and support innovation by determining which science and technology developments will drive future economic growth, meeting U.K. innovators with great ideas, funding the strongest opportunities, connecting innovators with the right partners they need to succeed and helping innovators to launch, build and grow successful businesses.
According to Dr. Neil Miller, CEO of Auspherix, “With the global spread of antimicrobial resistance and the fact that no new class of antibiotic has been discovered in over 30 years, patients with drug-resistant lung infections are particularly vulnerable. Innovate UK provides an essential source of funding for the U.K.’s life-sciences industry. The funding is highly competitive. Our successful grant is an endorsement of the potential utility of our new class of organogold antibacterials to treat antibiotic-resistant life-threatening respiratory infections and the need to expand the repertoire of antibiotic treatment options.”
Miller explained that Auspherix has discovered a novel class of broad-spectrum antibiotics that are “structurally differentiated from all existing classes and show a distinct antibacterial mechanism of action.” He added, “Auspherix's proprietary compounds are active against all of the so-called ESKAPE pathogens and retain activity against serious and potentially life-threatening multidrug-resistant (MDR) pathogens, including those deemed as a priority by the WHO. The compounds show rapid bactericidal killing of gram-negative bacteria and preliminary data indicates a low propensity for the emergence of resistance.”
Recognizing the need for a new chemical class of antibiotics, including drugs that would work against bacterial communities in biofilms and persistent forms, Auspherix’s founders embarked on a discovery program in 2010 using phenotypic assays to identify antibacterial compounds with drug-like properties suitable for future medicinal chemistry optimization, Miller added. The Auspherix team has developed an organogold chemistry platform based on discoveries and innovations around auranofin (Ridaura), an FDA-approved antirheumatic agent with a long history of clinical use. The company’s inventions have been protected in a series of patent applications.
“In comparison to auranofin itself, which is only active against gram-positive bacteria, Auspherix’s organogold compounds have been designed to inhibit both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria, including life-threatening multidrug-resistant pathogens for which there is the greatest unmet medical need in the clinic,” Miller commented.
In his opinion, one of the major challenges facing infectious disease clinicians is the increasing incidence of MDR gram-negative bacterial infections. Of particular concern for respiratory infections such as HABP are the carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, carbapenem-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii and carbapenem-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa strains that are in circulation across the globe. “Unlike many of the existing classes of antibiotics, Auspherix's proprietary organogold antibacterials are active against these drug-resistant strains and could therefore be used to treat patients who are not responsive to current treatment options,” Miller said.
Auspherix has received an Investment Accelerator Pilot grant for £150,000 from Innovate UK, a major funder of innovative research, that will allow the company to explore the potential utility of its new class of organogold antibacterials in the treatment of bacterial lung infections. Innovate UK will monitor the progress of the project and will reimburse the company based on delivery against pre-defined milestones. According to Miller, “This initial grant could lead to further non-dilutive funding to progress the project toward the clinic.”
The grant funding will run for six months starting from January 2018. If the data are positive, Auspherix will seek to raise additional funding to “progress a lead molecule through preclinical development and completion of IND-enabling studies,” explained Miller. “The commercial potential for this project is very significant, as hospital-acquired bacterial pneumonia is the second most common hospital-acquired infection and the primary cause of death in intensive care units, with a mortality rate of about 30 percent.”