ContraFect will receive up to $6.94 million in funding from CARB-X to support the development of their proprietary therapeutic peptides — amurins — against antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections caused by gram-negative ESKAPE pathogens.
The company intends to develop these compounds as potential therapies for pulmonary exacerbations of cystic fibrosis and hospital-acquired bacterial pneumonia.
CARB-X (standing for Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria Biopharmaceutical Accelerator) is an organization that accelerates the discovery and development of alternate antibacterial therapies to curb the growing problem of drug-resistant bacteria.
“We are excited to have CARB-X support the development of our novel class of amurin peptides, our second program to receive CARB-X funding this year,” Steven C. Gilman, PhD, chairman and CEO of ContraFect, said in a press release.
Earlier this year, CARB-X awarded Contrafact $2.3 million for the development of amurins for antibiotic-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa infections. P. aeruginosa is one of the ESKAPE pathogens — a group of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that cause serious and life-threatening infections.
With this new award, CARB-X extended its support to include the development of amurins against other gram-negative ESKAPE pathogens, namely Klebsiella pneumoniae, Acinetobacter baumannii, and Enterobacter cloacae. Cystic fibrosis patients are prone to infections with several ESKAPE pathogens.
Amurins are bacteria-lysing agents, or lysins, naturally produced by viruses that kill bacteria (called bacteriophages). ContraFect’s lysin platform uses bioinformatics and genomics to identify and produce amurins that can target a wide variety of bacteria.
To date, the company has developed amurins that have a broad range of activity against ESKAPE gram-negative bacteria and others, such as Escherichia coli and Salmonella typhimurium. In addition to free-floating bacteria, amurins work on bacteria that have attached to surfaces and formed biofilms, which are common in lung infections in CF patients. Regular antibiotics are unable to clear biofilms.
“We believe our new class of phage-encoded lytic agents, or amurins, may offer a complementary alternative to conventional antibiotics to combat resistant Gram-negative ESKAPE pathogens, which pose an enormous threat to public health worldwide. With the number of deaths due to bacterial infection approaching 700,000 worldwide, there is a tremendous need for new, more effective treatment options,” Gilman said.
ContraFect will initially receive $1.75 million, and is eligible to receive an additional $5.19 million upon reaching certain milestones.