Announcing the discovery as it inks its first licensing deal with Indian pharma giant Cadila Pharmaceuticals, Helperby Therapeutics' Chief Scientific Officer Professor Anthony Coates said “The emergence and spread of drug-resistant pathogens has accelerated whilst the pipeline for new anti-microbial drugs has all but run dry - this exciting and timely partnership with Cadila offers us all hope.”
The announcement comes as the World Health Organisation’s Director General Margaret Chan warns that a post-antibiotic era means, in effect, an end to modern medicine as we know it noting “Things as common as strep throat or a child’s scratched knee could once again kill.”
Helperby, a spin-out of the UK’s University of London St George’s, has been working for the past 12 years on ways to tackle antibiotic resistance and has discovered a new series of potent, fast-acting drugs which rescue old antibiotics. Instead of targeting multiplying bacteria, the research team focused on non-multiplying, dormant bacteria. Developing antibiotics that specifically target these root-like bacteria has never been done before - in fact conventional methods of screening have consistently missed these promising candidate drugs.
The lead compound, HT61, has proven effective at phase II where, combined with an existing antibiotic it boosted the effect of the old antibiotic. HT61 depolarizes the bacterial cell membrane boosting the anti-Staphylococcal effect of an old antibiotic for the decolonization of the nose prior to hospitalisation. This demonstrated that it is feasible to boost the effect of old antibiotics in humans – in essence a rejuvenated range of existing antibiotics. HT61 also renders a number of old antibiotics active against highly resistant bacteria- hence the name Antibiotic Resistance Breaker.
Cadila will take the compound through phase III, approvals and into commercialisation. Helperby will supply Cadila with Antibiotic Resistance Breakers whilst Cadila will develop the combinations with old antibiotics. One of the largest privately held pharmaceutical organisations in India Cadila was the first Indian company to receive Investigational New Drug approval by the stringent Food and Drug Administration USA. It is now actively considering a presence in the UK with a corresponding programme for UK microbiologists as part of the collaboration. The licensing agreement will allow Cadila Pharmaceuticals to bring the first product to market in around 18months.
Travelling with the UK’s Trade Delegation to India led by Prime Minister David Cameron, the deal value was undisclosed but could contribute to Helperby scaling up in the UK to a potential £500m operation, creating between 500-1000 by 2019.
Prime Minister Cameron said “The life sciences industry is the jewel in the crown for the UK economy, consistently growing and achieving new breakthroughs. Today’s deal between Helperby and Cadila Pharmaceuticals on antibiotic resistance research is another great example of UK-India collaboration helping both our countries to succeed in the global race. And it’s not just a step forward for medical research it also has the potential to create up to 1,000 highly skilled jobs in the UK by 2019.”
Cadila’s Chairman and Managing Director Dr. Rajiv I Modi added “The Founder Chairman of our company, Shri IA Modi, believed in providing affordable medicines for the masses through innovative and cutting-edge research & development. This discovery will open new avenues against resistant organisms and is very timely in view of global concerns about rapidly growing bacterial resistance against current antibiotics. Cadila Pharmaceutical’s collaboration with Helperby can help the mankind win the battle against the microbes and hopefully save millions of lives in coming years.”
There has been a profound lack of appetite for antimicrobial drug development over the past two decades in favour of more lucrative areas such as orphans or long term condition therapeutics. As far back as 2006 the Antimicrobial Availability Task Force of the Infectious Diseases Society of America expressed concern at the decreasing investment in antimicrobial research and development and launched a Bad Bugs Need Drugs campaign. In spite of this the pipeline remains stagnant with no real rising stars likely to appear in the near future.
In contrast, Helperby has 300 small molecules and seven further programmes which are all at the preclinical stage, targeted at systemic and topical infection (Gram-positive and Gram-negative) indicated for a range of conditions including UTI, GUI, CF, skin and mucosal bacterial and fungal infections, eye and ear infections. With 49 patent applications in place the company is looking for further collaborative partners to fast-track these vital drugs to market.