Trius Therapeutics Wins $28M Contract From NIH For Bioterror Antibiotics

Xconomy San Diego — 

Trius Therapeutics is on a roll. The San Diego-based biotech company has received a five-year $28 million contract from the National Institutes of Health to develop novel antibiotics against some of the nastiest possible bioterrorism bugs on the planet.

Trius will work in a collaboration with researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (folks that know a little bit about security) to identify and hone new drug candidates against gram-negative bacteria that could be used as bioterrorist threats—so this work is at a very early stage of development. The drugs will be tested against some well-known nasty bugs like Yersinia pestis (also known as the plague), Francisella tularensis (tularemia or rabbit fever) and Burkholderia pseudomallei (melioidosis or Whitmore’s disease). The grant comes from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a unit of NIH.

The company, which has raised $50 million in venture capital since its founding in 2007, is in the midst of gearing up for a series of presentations on its lead antibiotic in development, at the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in Washington D.C. Its candidate, TR-701, is from the same class of drugs as Pfizer’s linezolid (Zyvox), used against drug-resistant MRSA bacteria. The Trius compound is designed to be more potent, and may be given once a day instead of twice a day.

If Trius can duplicate that kind of success with the bioterror bugs, I’m guessing Uncle Sam will be grateful when it comes time to buy these things.

“We will focus our efforts to address the NIAID mission to develop new medical countermeasures against biological agents most likely to be used in a terror attack on civilian populations,” said Jeff Stein, Trius’ CEO, in a statement. “Trius offers a novel approach to develop effective new drugs to treat infections caused by such deadly pathogens.”