Wellcome Trust Pledges $155 Million to Fight Drug-Resistant Infections

Wellcome Trust Pledges $155 Million to Fight Drug-Resistant Infections

Photo credit: Paul McCool, University of Glasgow

The London-based Wellcome Trust has announced a commitment of £125 million ($155.5 million) over five years in support of efforts to fight drug-resistant infections.

The funds will be awarded through the Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria Biopharmaceutical Accelerator (CARB-X), a transatlantic partnership launched by the U.S. government in July 2016. The trust's announcement coincides with the announcement of the first early-stage antibacterial and rapid diagnostics projects to be supported by the partnership — three in the United Kingdom and eight in the United States.

Grants totaling $24 million and up to another $24 million in additional milestone-based funding over three years will support biotech companies and research teams working to develop new classes of small molecule antibiotics and advance products that offer alternative approaches to targeting and killing bacteria. Recipients include Cidara Therapeutics, which was awarded $3.9 million over thirteen months in support of its immunotherapy platform and drug candidate for treating multi-drug-resistant bacterial infections; Redx Pharma, which will receive $1 million over eighteen months to advance, into the clinical development stage, its bacterial topoisomerase inhibitor, which targets multi-drug-resistant bacteria; and Tetraphase Pharmaceuticals, which was awarded $4 million over eighteen months in support of a phase-one synthetic fluorocycline antibiotic candidate.

Drug-resistant infections kill seven hundred thousand people annually, according to the trust, and  that figure could reach ten million within a generation. "Antibiotic discovery is absolutely vital if we are to tackle drug-resistant infections, but it has been long neglected,” said Tim Jinks, the trust's head of drug resistant infections. "New medicines and diagnostic tools are needed so patients get better treatment. Through CARB-X, we're filling the current void of support for early research."

Headquartered at the Boston University School of Law, CARB-X plans to invest $450 million over the next five years in the development of twenty new antibiotic products, with at least two expected to progress to clinical trials and be approved for use in humans. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) and the AMR Centre, a UK government-sponsored public-private initiative, announced last year that they would provide up to $250 million and up to $100 million over five years, respectively, for the effort. Other partners include the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, RTI International, the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, and the California Life Sciences Institute.

"The projects in the new CARB-X portfolio are in the early stages of research, and there is always a high risk of failure,” said Kevin Outterson, executive director of CARB-X. “But if successful, these projects hold exciting potential in the fight against the deadliest antibiotic-resistant bacteria."

"We Are Pledging £125m to Tackle Drug-Resistant Infections." Wellcome Trust Press Release 03/30/2017. "CARB-X Injects Up to $48 Million to Accelerate First Powered by CARB-X Portfolio of Drug Discovery and Development Projects to Tackle Antibiotic Resistance." Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria Biopharmaceutical Accelerator Press Release 03/30/2017.