- The need for new antibiotics is a dire one, as the rate of death from antibiotic resistance increases. Roche AG has tapped a Massachusetts biotech for help in its endeavor to expand the number of approved antibiotic classes.
- Through a deal announced Monday, Warp Drive Bio Inc. will use its Genome Mining technology to develop "multiple novel classes of antibiotics with activity against clinically important, drug-resistant, Gram-negative pathogens," according to a statement. Roche can then exclusively license some of those classes, while Warp Drive maintains rights to anything left over.
- Roche is handing its partner $87 million upfront and potentially $300 million in milestone payments. Warp Drive could also receive tiered royalties extending into the double-digits on any net sales of products coming from the collaboration.
Though small in size, antibiotic-resistant microbes have quickly crawled to the forefront of public health concerns. Widely-cited estimates hold at least 700,000 people die from drug-resistant diseases annually — and that number is expected to rise over the coming years.
Roche is just one of several big pharmas working to identify and advance novel types of antibiotics. Within its broad pipeline is nacubactam, a next-generation beta-lactamase inhibitor that the Swiss drugmaker claims works well when paired with beta-lactam antibiotics. The company is trying to develop the drug as a treatment for serious Gram-negative bacterial infections, and is currently testing how well it enters patients' lungs in a Phase 1 study.
The new partnership with Warp Drive could flesh out Roche's antibiotic offerings much more. While the companies didn't define exactly how many new classes of antibiotics they planned to develop, Warp Drive claims its technology provides plenty of options.
"Warp Drive is identifying and evaluating over one hundred novel classes of potential antibiotics that were previously undiscovered and thus never analyzed for their impact on human health," the company said in the Oct. 16 statement. "There are currently ten classes of natural antibiotics that have been approved for patient use as compared to five classes of synthetic antibiotics. The last antibiotic from a novel natural class approved by the FDA was daptomycin, discovered more than 30 years ago."
For Warp Drive, this deal is yet another name added to the biotech's list of heavyweight collaborators. The Cambridge-based company inked multiple large partnerships, including one with GlaxoSmithKline plc reached earlier this year and another, R&D-focused one with Sanofi SA worth $750 million, after it launched in 2012 with $125 million in financing from Third Rock Ventures and others.
Notably, the deal with Sanofi involved one program that also used Warp Drive's technology platform on Gram-negative antibiotics.
"Antimicrobial resistance is an extraordinary threat to global human health, and Warp Drive’s unique platform allows us to access a vast reservoir of uncharacterized natural products from which to identify novel antibiotics," Warp Drive CEO Laurence Reid said in an Oct. 16 statement.
Roche's option for an exclusive worldwide license for an antibiotic class kicks in once the big pharma picks a clinical candidate from that class.