From candidate to clinic: Australian-German collaboration aims to develop new antibiotics

By Flora Southey

- Last updated on GMT

(Image: Getty/kapulya)
(Image: Getty/kapulya)

Related tags: Bacteria, Antibiotic resistance, Drug discovery

Fraunhofer is “redoubling” its efforts to develop new antibiotics and transfer research into clinical trials through a project available to external partners for development.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Toxicology and Experimental Medicine (ITEM) has partnered with Hannover Medical School (MHH) and Griffith University’s Institute for Glycomics (IfG) to develop new antibiotics.

The collaboration, known as the International Consortium for Anti-Infective Research (iCAIR) project, will see the MHH research and identify new targets for viruses and bacteria, and Australia’s IfG identify, design, and optimise potential drugs.

“From there, Fraunhofer will do regulatory preclinical testing, including toxicology and efficacy testing, in order to prepare candidates for the clinic,” ​said Fraunhofer ITEM’s Armin Braun.

Braun told us the agreement also enables IfG and Fraunhofer to exchange research methods.

“The Australian partner will send us new compounds for efficacy and toxicological testing, however, there will also be a personnel exchange – where people from Australia come to Hannover, and vice versa – to exchange methods,” ​he said.

Contract service platform and drug development

Braun described Fraunhofer ITEM as ”something between a CRO [contract research organisation] and a research organisation​.”

“Fraunhofer is a non-profit, public, fee-for-service organisation, which does research to help the industry develop products,” ​he explained.

The Institute will develop its proprietary candidates and will also make the iCAIR project available to external partners.

“While the idea is that we identify potential drug candidates to develop, we also want this platform to be open to everyone – from small biotech firms to universities – so that we can develop potential candidates until clinical proof of concept,” ​said Braun.

In moving from drug discovery to clinical trials, Braun added that predicting candidate success is the greatest challenge. “When it comes to preclinical testing, it is hard to predict if this compound will make it in the clinic,” ​he told us. “The main hurdle to overcome is having the right preclinical models that predict success later in the clinic.”

Antimicrobial Resistance

According to Fraunhofer ITEM’s governing institution, Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, the collaboration aims to develop new anti-infective therapies in response to the antimicrobial resistance (AMR) crisis.

AMR is the resistance of a microorganism to an antimicrobial medicine. Resistant organisms are not affected by antimicrobial medicines such as antibiotics, and as consequence, medicines are no longer effective against infections. 

Previously effective antibiotics are becoming less and less effective against multi-resistant bacteria​,” said Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft’s president Reimund Neugebauer.

We urgently need to develop new drugs and find new ways to transfer them from research into clinical trials, and that is why Fraunhofer will be redoubling its efforts in this area,​” he added.

In the future, the iCAIR project alliance could lead to the development of a Fraunhofer Project Center, or potentially a Fraunhofer Center for new anti-infective drugs, according to the institute.

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