US Funds Novel Anti-Bacterial Research at PolyMedix
PolyMedix of Radnor, PA has now received 3 biodefense-related contracts from the US government, including a a $1.6 million, 1-year contract from the US Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) to develop new “defensin-mimetic antibiotic compounds.” The primary goal of that contract is to devise more effective rapid-response countermeasures against anthrax, plague, and tularemia. Other work may have benefits against pan-Staphylococcal infections, and pneumonia.
How does their proposed approach work, and what makes it novel?
- BAAC to the Future?
- Contracts and Key Events [updated]
- Additional Readings
BAAC to the Future?
PolyMedix’ overall approach is simple to describe, but a lot less simple to execute. They design biomimetic polymers, oligomers, and small molecules that mimic key biological properties of proteins, but are more stable and less expensive to produce than natural proteins. These types of compounds are called “defensin-mimetic,” and the technical term used for them is BAACs: Bactericidal Amphiphilic Antibiotic Compounds.
The firm focuses on developing compounds for protein-to-protein and protein-to-membrane interactions, an area that requires significant computing power and uses proprietary technologies.
By mimicking the activity of the host defense proteins, PolyMedix’s compounds can do things like directly disrupt bacterial cell membranes. This biophysical, or mechanical mechanism of action, largely evades the very mechanisms responsible for bacterial resistance to drugs. The firm believes that their approach will make it much harder for bacterial resistance to develop against their compounds, giving them greater long-term effectiveness than new standard antibiotic compounds.
PolyMedix’s lead commercial defensin-mimetic antibiotic compound is PMX-30063, currently in Phase I clinical development. On Dec 10/08, PolyMedix announced the results of the first Phase I human clinical study, and on May 15/09, PolyMedix announced that it had received regulatory clearance from Health Canada to initiate a Phase IB clinical study to assess the safety of PMX-30063 given repeatedly over a period of several days. The initial commercial plan for PMX-30063 is as a a systemic (injectable) treatment for pan-Staphylococcal infections.
These contracts are another illustration of the ways that military research funding can help a small, investor-funded medical firm broaden the scope of related research in ways that may end up saving thousands of lives, but don’t have an immediate market payoff.
Contracts and Key Events
July 23/09: PolyMedix, Inc. and the University of Massachusetts announce a $99,838 Phase I Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) contract sponsored by the US Office of Naval Research (ONR). They will try to use PolyMedix’s novel small molecule defensin-mimetics to develop lead antimicrobial compounds against bacterial pathogens most relevant to the military. Their particular focus will be Acinetobacter, a Gram-negative bacteria which can cause pneumonia; current drugs are not very effective at treating it.
This contract represents the firm’s 9th outside supported grant or research contract, and the 3rd related to biodefense. PolyMedix will receive $69,890 over the first 6-month phase of the contract, with an optional extension which may provide an additional $29,948 of funding for continued work which would be done together with Dr. Gregory Tew of the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
June 1/09: PolyMedix of Radnor, PA announces a $1.6 million contract from the US Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) to develop new defensin-mimetic antibiotic compounds, in order to combat biowarfare pathogens. The primary goal of that contract is to devise more effective rapid-response countermeasures against anthrax, plague, and tularemia.
September 2004: PolyMedix receives a $167,000 Phase I SBIR grant from the National Institutes of Health to study defensin-mimetic antibiotic compounds against anthrax and other biowarfare pathogens. A SBIR Phase I grant is given for very early-phase research, and is a long way from clinical trials. Nevertheless, some of those test-tube experiments against infectious agents appear to have been successful, prompting the recent follow-on award.
Additional Readings & Sources
- DID would like to thank PolyMedix President and CEO Nick Landekic for his time and technical clarifications.
- Polymedix – Antimicrobial Drugs – BAAC’s [sic]