Startup forges ‘Superbug Alliance’ with Evotec to engineer new antibiotics

By Dani Bancroft contact

- Last updated on GMT

iStock/Dr_Microbe
iStock/Dr_Microbe

Related tags: Bacteria

Evotec AG and Forge Therapeutics Inc have entered a two-year agreement to discover novel antibiotics for Gram-negative bacterial infections, including resistant strains.

Forge is an early stage biotech currently based at Johnson & Johnson’s incubator​ in San Diego, JLABS.

The alliance will be based on lead optimisation of Forge’s chemical platform to isolate and identify a small-molecule inhibitor that is effective against the LpxC enzyme in Gram-negative bacteria.

Evotec’s drug discovery platform will come with a team of 10 people with expertise in medicinal chemistry and ADME/PK, as well as analytical services to move forward in LpxC antibiotic research.

The CEO of Forge Therapeutics, Zachary Zimmerman, added “[Evotec] provides significant preclinical expertise and added horsepower to rapidly advance our novel antibiotic to address this growing unmet global issue."

Proprietary platform

In a statement, the California start-up explains that previous attempts by biopharmas to harness the LpxC antibacterial target​ have been unsuccessful due to a binding group in the inhibitor class – hydroxamic acid.

The firm added that potential compounds manufactured using this group–originally discovered by Merck​–were actually poor candidates medicinally.

However, Forge’s library of metal-binding pharmacophores has removed the need for hydroxamic acid from their inhibitors and has demonstrated an efficacy as antibiotics in animal models.

The discoverer of LpxC and former senior investigator at Merck, Lyn Silver, has since joined Forge’s R&D team.

Evotec and Forge could not be reached for comment.

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