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Allergan, AstraZeneca Partner on Drug-Resistant Bacteria

Bacteria growing in petri dishes

(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

29 January 2016. Pharmaceutical companies Allergan and AstraZeneca are developing a new treatment for infections caused by a type of bacteria already resistant to antibiotics. Financial aspects of the collaboration between the enterprises were not disclosed.

The agreement calls for the two companies to develop and commercialize ATM-AVI, a new drug that treats infections from metallo beta-lactamase or MBL producing gram-negative bacteria. These bacteria, a subset of carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae, are considered particularly difficult to treat with current antibiotics, and infections from these pathogens are often found among people with weakened immune systems in health care facilities.

ATM-AVI combines the antibiotics aztreonam and avibactam. Aztreonam kills bacteria causing several types of infections, including pneumonia, urinary tract, gynecological, skin, bone, joint, stomach, and blood infections. Avibactam, marketed as Avycaz by Allergan, is prescribed for complicated intra-abdominal infections, as well as infections of the urinary tract.

Allergan notes that aztreonam has limited utility by itself against MBL-producing gram-negative pathogens because of enzymes produced by the bacteria that deactivate the drug. With avibactam added, however, aztreonam’s ability to fight these pathogens is restored. AstraZeneca says ATM-AVI is currently in early-stage clinical trials. “Gram” refers to a classification for bacteria where the microbes either retain (gram-positive) or shed (gram-negative) a test stain on their protective cell coatings.

The collaboration, says Allergan, builds on a partnership between AstraZeneca and Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or Barda, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, begun in September 2015. Under that agreement, Barda is supporting development of ATM-AVI for gram-negative infections for which few treatments are new available, and can be used deployed in case of attack by biological agents, including meliodosis, glanders, and plague.

Under the agreement, Allergan gains the drug’s commercialization rights for the U.S. and Canada, while AstraZeneca secures rights to commercialize ATM-AVI elsewhere. Allergan, headquartered in Dublin, Ireland, is being acquired by the U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer for an estimated $160 billion, with that transaction scheduled to close in the second half of 2016.

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