Shionogi acquires QPex to harness antimicrobial pipeline

By Jonathan Smith

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags acquisition Mergers and acquisitions Antimicrobial resistance Japan Pharmacology

The Japanese company Shionogi has taken over the US biotech Qpex Biopharma for up to $140 million in a bid to expand its pipeline of antimicrobial drugs and boost its R&D muscle in infectious disease.

One of the prizes of the acquisition is Qpex’s clinical-stage antimicrobial drug xeruborbactam. The drug is designed to block proteins called β-lactamases, which some strains of drug-resistant bacteria use to degrade and resist β-lactam antibiotics such as penicillins and carbapenems. Xeruborbactam could also tackle bacterial strains that are normally resistant to existing β-lactamase inhibitors and be used in combination with other antibiotics to make them more effective.

"We are pleased to welcome Qpex into the Shionogi family. Bacterial resistance to antibiotics remains one of the biggest threats to global health, and Qpex’s pipeline, including xeruborbactam, and its capabilities will accelerate our efforts to develop new antibiotic treatments to address antimicrobial resistance," said Isao Teshirogi, CEO of Shionogi in a public release.

"Following the close of the acquisition, Qpex will become part of Shionogi, and we will work together to comprehensively address the needs of patients and healthcare professionals and to protect society from current and emerging life-threatening bacterial infections."

As part of the deal, Shionogi will pay Qpex shareholders $100 million upfront in addition to undisclosed regulatory and development milestone payments of up to $40 million. In return, Shionogi gains the global exclusive development, manufacturing and marketing rights for xeruborbactam in addition to access to Qpex’s infectious disease expertise and network.

Prior to the acquisition, programs in Qpex’s pipeline were funded wholly or in part with help from the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), and Shionogi expects to continue this collaboration going forward.

Qpex is developing xeruborbactam in phase 1b trials in combination with beta-lactam antibiotics. One program is testing the drug as an oral treatment for infections by drug-resistant Gram-negative bacteria and another is delivering xeruborbactam intravenously. The company is also developing a lipopeptide analog drug in phase 1 for the treatment of serious antibiotic-resistant infections.

"Qpex is thrilled to become part of Shionogi, a world-class organization with an established legacy and commitment to innovation in the development of products for the treatment of infectious diseases," said Michael Dudley, President and CEO of Qpex. "Joining Shionogi along with our collaboration with BARDA will help drive the availability of new products for treating drug-resistant infections worldwide."

The annual death toll​ from antibiotic-resistant infections is more than 1.2 million people and this could grow to 10 million per year by 2050. The World Health Organization​ calls antimicrobial resistance one of the top 10 global public health threats facing humanity, yet it also sees the industry pipeline for new antimicrobials drying up. However, there are initiatives gunning to overcome this challenge such as the $1 billion AMR Action Fund and a recent £39 million investment​ by the UK into research into antimicrobial resistance.

Related topics Mergers and Acquisitions

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