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Utah Life Sciences News & Events

Antibiotic-Resistant “Superbugs” – Public Health Crisis and Research Challenge

January 10, 2020

Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) is a public health crisis, but developing new classes of antibiotics to combat drug resistant bacteria is challenging on many levels. Last month, the New York Times reported on the struggles facing companies that are researching new antibiotics.

In November, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report, Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States 2019 . The report found that antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” cause almost 3 million infections and 35,000 deaths per year—more than previously projected. The World Health Organization predicts drug-resistant infections could cause 10 million deaths a year — more than cancer — by 2050.

“Estimates show that it takes more than a decade to develop a new antibiotic or vaccine and can cost more than $1 billion. But even when a product does make it to the market, it might take a whopping 23 years to break even on its R&D investment,” notes BIO CEO, Jim Greenwood. Bipartisan legislation, the DISARM Act was introduced in Congress last July that would help spur investment in new antibiotics. The bill would create a separate reimbursement payment for antibiotics under Medicare, allowing hospitals to fully recoup the cost of newer treatments.

Despite these headwinds, Utah startup, Curza , is fighting the AMR battle by targeting a new antibiotic to kill drug-resistant Gram-negative bacteria, which can cause E-coli, pneumonia and hospital-associated infections. Unfortunately, since the 1960s most antibiotics that have come to market have been variations of existing antibiotics, and ineffective against resistant superbugs.

“More R&D is vital, but big pharma isn’t doing it, leaving the work to innovative companies like Curza,” said Todd Kinard, vice president of Curza. Curza’s goal: take their compounds from R&D to Phase 1 clinical trials, then license or sell their clinical assets to large pharmaceutical companies who can manufacture the product for patient use. “Curza is waging war on the worldwide superbug crisis – developing the first new class of antibiotics in over 20 years to fight drug-resistant bacteria, and we’re proudly making it happen in Utah,” added Kinard.

“Curza is on the frontlines of this serious, worldwide health crisis,” said Kelvyn Cullimore, President and CEO of BioUtah. “They’re developing a new class of antibiotics to fight drug-resistant infections that are taking far too many lives. We’re proud to have Curza doing this important work right here in Utah.”

National BIO, in partnership with state affiliates like BioUtah, will advocate for policies to effectively support the important work of companies, such as Curza, and result in the development of these much needed new medicines.