CARB-X funds Techulon’s development of nano therapeutics that can kill drug-resistant bacteria

Nov. 13, 2019

CARB-X is awarding Techulon Inc. up to $785,000 in funding to develop a new class of antimicrobial that would kill drug-resistant bacteria by targeting specific genes critical to the bacteria’s survival.

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 U.S. 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. 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.

“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. “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.”

“Antibiotic resistance is a real and serious threat to national security and public health”, said Rick Bright, Ph.D., HHS Deputy Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response and Director of BARDA. “CARB-X has generated valuable momentum in re-catalyzing the antibiotic pipeline. Reaching this milestone of supporting 50 innovative candidates in just three years is a testament to what can be achieved through public-private partnerships and to the power of diverse international coalitions working together to manage this urgent problem.”

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.

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.

“Techulon is excited to partner with CARB-X to advance our novel Rapidly Adaptable Nano Therapeutic (RANT) platform therapeutics,” said Bud Thompson, CEO of Techulon. “With CARB-X’s support, we will be able to continue to develop therapeutics which we believe will be part of the solution to addressing antimicrobial-resistant (AMR) bacteria.”

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 (NIAID).

CARB-X has the release.