Award’s goal: More effective way of treating resistant NTM infections

BioVersys given up to £500,000 to develop antimicrobials for rising threat

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by Steve Bryson, PhD |

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CF AMR Syndicate, a U.K. research support group, has awarded BioVersys up to £500,000 ($636,000) to develop small molecules targeting hard-to-treat nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) infections in people with cystic fibrosis (CF).

Established in 2019 as a cross-sector (e.g., public-private) initiative with the Cystic Fibrosis Trust to accelerate the translation of CF antimicrobials to the clinic, the syndicate since has formed similar partnerships with LifeArc and Medicines Discovery Catapult, also in the U.K. All three groups will work through the syndicate to also provide BioVersys with disease-specific support.

“We are absolutely delighted not only to have been awarded this funding from CF AMR Syndicate, but also to have them as new collaboration partners,” Sergio Lociuro, PhD, chief scientific officer of BioVersys, said in a company press release. “Collaborating with valuable and experienced partners in the field is the most efficient and effective way to successfully pursue research.”

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NTM infections are rising among CF patients in the US and elsewhere

Due to the buildup of thick, sticky mucus in the lungs, people with CF are predisposed to respiratory infections that are difficult to clear, risking a progressive decline in lung function. Because microbes promoting such infections can become resistant to treatment, the development of new antimicrobials for CF is considered an unmet need.

CF patients are particularly vulnerable to NTM, a group of bacteria commonly found in soil, dust, and water. It is related to bacteria that cause tuberculosis, a serious infection that mainly attacks the lungs. Recent research showed that the number of NTM lung infections is rising among CF patients in the U.S. and elsewhere.

“People living with CF are particularly vulnerable to antimicrobial resistance,” said Paula Sommer, PhD, head of research at the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. “New antimicrobials that target CF-associated lung infections are urgently needed. We are delighted that the programme, developed with input from the CF community, has commenced.”

BioVersys’ NTM program, derived from its proprietary Ansamycin Chemistry platform, is developing a highly potent and broad-spectrum ansamycin (a class of antibiotics) against NTM as an oral or inhalation therapy.

A company goal is candidate molecules that lack cross-resistance, meaning they aim to prevent bacteria that become resistant to one type of treatment from also becoming resistant to similar treatments. Another is for selected molecules to not interact with other medications, as patients infected with NTM are often on multiple drug therapies.

“The CF AMR Syndicate is a unique initiative that brings people with CF together with leading experts from across the industry, academia and clinical care to accelerate the translation of CF antimicrobials to the clinic,” said Beverley Isherwood, PhD, strategy leader of infectious diseases at Medicines Discovery Catapult. “With this programme, we aim to extend the impact of this patient-centred collective approach to contribute new promising antimicrobials for people who need them.”

Funding being given to BioVersys comes via a LifeArc-funded Collaborative Discovery Programme award and is non-dilutive, meaning the money received by the company does not require any percentage of ownership in exchange.

“The Collaborative Discovery Programme (CDP) is part of LifeArc’s Chronic Respiratory Infection Translational Challenge which is a programme that aims to accelerate scientific innovation for people living with CF,” said Catherine Kettleborough, lead of LifeArc’s chronic respiratory infection translational challenge. “Working with MDC and Cystic Fibrosis Trust, this programme aims to deliver new therapies to end the vicious cycle of infection, inflammation and permanent lung damage for people living with CF.”