HARLOW, U.K.—Argenta Discovery, a company that provides drug discovery services from target validation to proof of concept, announced today that it has achieved a milestone with its collaboration partner, Labège, France-based Antabio, in an antibacterial drug discovery project funded by the Wellcome Trust. The attainment of the milestone triggers the drawdown of a further €1.7 million (about $2.4 million) tranche of their Seeding Drug Discovery Award.
More specifically, what the companies have done is to identify a novel lead series of pan-metallo beta-lactamase inhibitors that, in combination with carbapenems, reportedly restores antibacterial activity against life-threatening clinical isolates while exhibiting no toxicity or developmental issues.
This is an important issue, as multidrug-resistant Gram-negative bacteria account for most hospital infections worldwide, causing as many as 75,000 deaths annually and leading to healthcare costs and lost productivity of more than $2 billion. As Argenta notes, one of the most effective treatments is the use of carbapenem antibiotics; however, the usefulness of these antibiotics is becoming increasingly compromised due to the rise of clinical resistance, associated with the spread of genes encoding various metallo beta-lactamase (MBL) enzymes, primarily the carbapenemases of the NDM, VIM and IMP types.
The collaboration between Argenta and Antabio goes back to February 2013, when the Wellcome Trust awarded Antabio €4.7 million (approximately $6.5 million) to fund the discovery of a novel, safe and efficacious pan-inhibitor of bacterial MBLs. Since then, Argenta has provided medicinal chemistry, computer-aided drug design and ADME/PK services, together with its integrated drug discovery expertise, to assist Antabio achieve its research goals.
“To have achieved on schedule our first milestone in our collaboration with the Trust is a great satisfaction for our team, and a sign that solid foundations are in place for this discovery program,” according to Marc Lemonnier, CEO of Antabio. “We believe the therapeutic potential of a small-molecule pan-MBL inhibitor is very significant and will eventually improve the outcome for patients suffering from severe nosocomial Gram-negative infections. This milestone will support further lead optimization efforts to progress our compounds rapidly towards preclinical candidate nomination.”
John Montana, Argenta’s managing director, added in the news release about the milestone achievement, “We are delighted to have achieved this milestone with our collaboration partner, Antabio, and look forward to our continuing partnership on this exciting drug discovery project. Once again, this achievement underlines Argenta’s ability to deliver high-quality science within exacting deadlines.”
Just a couple weeks after the milestone announcement, Argenta had some other big news, with Charles River Laboratories International Inc. completing a previously announced acquisition of the CRO services division of Galapagos NV, which included Argenta and Netherlands-based BioFocus.
Commenting on the acquisition, Charles River says bringing the two former Galapagos entities into its fold positions it as a full service, early-stage contract research organization (CRO), with integrated in-vitro and in-vivo capabilities from target discovery through preclinical development.
The purchase price was €129 million in cash, or about $179 million, subject to certain post-closing working capital adjustments. The acquisition is expected to add approximately 6 percent to Charles River’s net sales in 2014. It is also expected to be accretive to non-GAAP earnings per share in 2014 by approximately $0.10. Items excluded from non-GAAP earnings per share are expected to include all deal-related costs including amortization of intangible assets.