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U.S. to invest in Medicines Co, Roche antibiotics development

| Sept 21

Sept 21 The Medicines Co on Wednesday said it will receive up to $132 million in U.S. government funding for development of new antibiotics to fight drug-resistant infections, seen by health officials as a critically important need.

Under terms of the agreement, the company said it will receive $32 million in initial funding from BARDA, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Medicines Co would be eligible to receive up to an additional $100 million over five years if BARDA exercises all of its options to extend the partnership, the company said.

"Our new partnership with BARDA will allow us to advance the next generation of urgently-needed antibiotics for the most serious drug-resistant infections," Medicines Co research chief Michael Dudley said in a statement.

BARDA on Wednesday also announced a partnership with Roche worth up to $151.6 million over five years as it seeks to provide incentives to drugmakers for antibiotics development.

Antibiotic resistance and the emergence of so-called super bugs, caused by widespread overuse of antibiotics and the natural ability of bacteria to evolve, are seen as global health threats.

Development of new drugs has lagged because antibiotics are not nearly as profitable as other medicines and aggressively marketing them would only exacerbate the overuse problem.

"The return on investment for companies pursuing development of new antibacterial drugs just isn't there. Our investments in this space ... are really keeping the companies that are doing this at the table," Joe Larsen, BARDA's acting deputy director, said in a telephone interview.

"Everything that BARDA is doing right now lowers the cost of research and development," Larsen said, adding that the agency prefers to forge partnerships with companies that have a portfolio of antibiotics in development to improve the odds of success.

BARDA, which signed a similar deal with GlaxoSmithKline in 2013, previously helped fund development of Carbavance, for which Medicines Co expects to file for U.S. approval next year. It is intended to treat serious gram-negative infections, such as complicated urinary tract infections and other infections caused by carbapenem resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE.

Gram-negative bacteria, which are increasingly resistant to most antibiotics, can also cause pneumonia, bloodstream infections, wound infections and meningitis.

Some 23,000 U.S. deaths annually are caused by treatment-resistant bacteria, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About half of CRE bloodstream infections are fatal. (Reporting by Bill Berkrot, editing by G Crosse)

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