Wellcome Trust and GlaxoSmithKline announce partnership to target drug-resistant hospital infections

London 29 April 2007The Wellcome Trust and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) have signed a collaboration to develop a new class of antibacterials to combat the rise of certain drug-resistant hospital-acquired infections, including those that lead to pneumonia. The collaboration is part of the Wellcome Trust's Seeding Drug Discovery initiative, aimed at tackling unmet medical needs.

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GSK has received a GBP 4 million award from the Trust to accelerate development of compounds for the treatment of Gram-negative bacteria, which are becoming increasingly resistant to multiple antibacterials. GSK will make a matching contribution in staff, equipment and other programme costs. The Trust will receive a financial consideration on any commercial product resulting from the collaboration.

"Our ability to tackle drug-resistant infections is reaching crisis level with few new antimicrobial agents on the horizon", stated Dr. Ted Bianco, Director of Technology Transfer at the Wellcome Trust. "Antibacterials are expensive to develop and may be held in reserve, limiting their market potential. It can be difficult, therefore, for companies to recoup their outlay in R&D costs.

"This is where the Wellcome Trust believes it can make a difference through partnership. GSK has demonstrated a continuing commitment to discover and develop new antibacterials, aimed at addressing the growing threat of resistance. Our partnership will further support its research programmes."

The research will target Gram-negative bacteria, such as Pseudomonas, Klebsiella and Acinetobacter, which are increasingly resistant to available antibacterials and commonly cause hospital-acquired pneumonia and septic shock, particularly in patients in intensive care units. Without adequate therapy, patients often confront a poor prognosis - mortality is high, and recovery, when it occurs, can be long and complicated.

Dr. Patrick Vallance, Senior Vice President of Drug Discovery at GSK, commented: "Infection by Gram-negative bacteria is a rapidly emerging public-health problem. GSK welcomes this collaboration with the Wellcome Trust to evaluate the potential of part of our existing antibiotics portfolio against these pathogens."

Virtually no novel-mechanism antibacterials are in development to address this rising need. Gram-negative bacteria are particularly difficult to attack as they have an outer membrane surrounding the bacterial cell wall which interferes with drug penetration. New medicines must not only be toxic to the pathogen, but must first overcome the barriers to entry into the cell.

The resistance of various types of bacteria to treatment is creating new challenges in the management of infection. Few new antibiotic classes have entered the market in the last 40 years. In recognition of this challenge, GSK's Infectious Diseases Centre of Excellence for Drug Discovery (ID CEDD) is dedicated to research into medicines for bacterial as well as other types of infections.

The Wellcome Trust's GBP 91 million Seeding Drug Discovery initiative aims to assist researchers and companies, small and large, to take forward early-stage drug discovery projects in small-molecule therapeutics. It is intended that these projects will then be taken up for further research and development by industry.

"Our partnership with GSK will capitalise on the company's research excellence and support it in developing a much needed product", explained Dr. Bianco. "More generally, the public and private sectors must find creative ways to address antibiotic development, or face the spectre of being confronted with untreatable infections."

The Wellcome Trust is currently accepting applications for the next round of funding under the Seeding Drug Discovery initiative. Preliminary applications submitted by 4 May 2007 will be shortlisted for consideration by the committee in October 2007.

The Wellcome Trust is the largest charity in the United Kingdom. It funds innovative biomedical research, in the United Kingdom and internationally, spending around GBP 500 million each year to support the brightest scientists with the best ideas. The Wellcome Trust supports public debate about biomedical research and its impact on health and wellbeing.

GlaxoSmithKline, a research-based pharmaceutical and health care company, is committed to improving the quality of human life by enabling people to do more, feel better and live longer. GSK has an established heritage in the development of novel anti-infectives to meet clinical needs. GSK is committed to the discovery, development and commercialisation of innovative, potent antibacterials. Its approach includes in-house research using leading technologies, as well as actively seeking in-licensing opportunities and partnerships.


Leslie Versweyveld

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