CARB-X is awarding Techulon Inc., located in the Virginia
Tech Corporate Research Center in Blacksburg, VA, USA, up to $785,000 in
non-dilutive funding to develop a new class of antimicrobial that would kill
drug-resistant bacteria by targeting specific genes critical to the bacteria’s
The CARB-X award supports preclinical hit-to-lead
development of Techulon’s drug candidates targeting Acinetobacter baumannii
and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, two superbugs that have been identified by
the World Health Organization (WHO) as ‘priority pathogens’ posing the greatest
threat to global health and by the US Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC) as ‘serious threats’ to human health.
The Techulon project is the 50th innovative antibacterial
early development project funded by CARB-X, established in July 2016. To date,
CARB-X has invested more than $150 million in non-dilutive funding to
accelerate the development of antibiotics, vaccines, diagnostics and other
life-saving products to address drug-resistant bacteria, with additional funds
committed if projects achieve certain milestones. The CARB-X portfolio has 31
active projects in five countries.
Techulon is developing novel peptide-peptide nucleic
acids (PPNAs) antimicrobial compounds using its RANT platform, which can reveal
DNA sequences in genes that are essential for the survival of microbes. The
drugs work by precisely targeting these genes in superbugs causing an
infection, thereby killing them. The PPNAs are composed of cell-penetrating
peptides (CPP) conjugated via linkers to a gene target-specific antisense
peptide nucleic acid (PNA) sequence for improved delivery into the microbe
cytoplasm, efficient binding to target mRNA, and inhibition of translation of
the target gene.
“CARB-X is fighting the spread of drug-resistant bacteria
by supporting the development of innovative therapeutics and other products
that target the most serious bacterial threats. We are making progress,” said
Kevin Outterson, Executive Director of CARB-X, which is based at the Boston
University School of Law. “The Techulon project is in the early stages of
development but if successful and approved for use in patients, it could
represent major improvements in the way deadly infections are treated.” CARB-X
is a consortium led by Boston University and funded by a global partnership.
Infections from drug-resistant A. baumannii and P.
aeruginosa can be fatal and are particularly threatening for patients with
weakened immune systems. There is an urgent need for new therapies to treat
infections caused by microbes such as these that have developed resistance to
current antibiotics, rendering these drugs ineffective.
Supporting Antibacterial Innovation
According to the WHO, an estimated 700,000 people die each year worldwide from bacterial infections. In the US, an estimated 23,000 people die each year from drug-resistant bacterial infections. In Europe, the number of deaths yearly is estimated at 33,000.
CARB-X partners have
committed up to $500 million to invest in antibacterial R&D between
2016-2021. CARB-X’s goal is to support projects through the early phases of
development through Phase 1, so that they will attract additional private or
public support for further clinical development and approval for use in
patients. These funds are in addition to investments made by the companies
themselves. CARB-X provides between 80 and 90 percent of project costs,
depending on the phase of development.
CARB-X is led by
Boston University. Funding for the Techulon project is provided by the
Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), the Wellcome
Trust, Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), and with
in-kind support from National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases