CF Foundation Awards $700K to Support Work into Treatments for B. cepacia Infections

Marisa Wexler, MS avatar

by Marisa Wexler, MS |

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The Cystic Fibrosis (CF) Foundation awarded a nearly $700,000 contract to Calibr, the drug discovery and development arm of Scripps Research, to support projects aiming to identify compounds that could treat infections caused by Burkholderia cepacia complex.

The contract will provide funding for two years, and is valued at $692,000, according to a press release from the CF Foundation, which has committed to providing at least $100 million in research funding (from 2019 to 2023) into chronic and intractable infections in CF as part of its Infection Research Initiative.

The B. cepacia complex comprises 22 species of bacteria that can cause lung infections in people with cystic fibrosis (CF). Despite being rare — with an incidence of 2.6% in CF patients in the U.S. in 2018 — these infections can be serious, mainly because many of these bacteria are resistant to antibiotics, which limits treatment options.

A particular species of these bacteria found in CF patients, called B. cenocepacia, also often prevents them from undergoing a lung transplant due to the risk of severe infection following the procedure.

Researchers at Calibr will take advantage of the company’s ReFRAME drug repurposing collection to screen a library of over 13,000 small molecules that are known to be safe in humans. Their goal is to identify possible candidates with antibacterial activity against B. cepacia.

“We’re privileged to work alongside the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation on a program with such critical importance for the patient community,” Arnab Chatterjee, PhD, vice president of medicinal chemistry of Calibr, said in a company press release.

“By growing bacteria in a way that imitates the infection environment, and then employing our library of more than 13,000 compounds that are already known to be safe in humans, we hope to identify promising antibiotics and accelerate the timeline for developing a drug,” Chatterjee added.

According to Chatterjee, similar strategies could also be employed to identify compounds that could be used to treat infections caused by other species of the antibiotic-resistant bacteria often seen in CF patients, including Achromobacter and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

Following the discovery of possible therapeutic candidates, investigators at Calibr will then work with researchers at the University of Michigan to translate their initial findings into clinically relevant treatment approaches.