Novo Nordisk Investment Fund Backs Companies Developing Therapies Combatting Antimicrobial Resistance

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Novo Nordisk’s investment arm, Novo Holdings, invested a little more than $20 million in four different companies over the course of 2018 through its REPAIR Impact Fund. That $165 million fund was established last year to support companies developing therapies to combat antimicrobial resistance.

The World Health Organization regards antimicrobial resistance as one of the greatest health threats to mankind across the globe. It is estimated that more than 700,000 people die each year from infections resistant to most or all antibiotics. That threat is expected to eclipse cancer-related deaths by 2050, Novo Holdings said this morning, as it noted its investments. Novel approaches are urgently needed to tackle the growing tide of antibiotic-resistant infections, the investment firm said.

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The fund invested in four companies last year, including Entasis Therapeutics, which has an anti-infective discovery platform and a clinical pipeline of meaningfully differentiated programs targeting serious bacterial infections. The Novo Nordisk REPAIR Fund invested $10 million into the company’s $75 million IPO. Entasis, a spinout of AstraZeneca, emerged in July 2015 with a number of former AstraZeneca anti-infective scientists leading the charge. Last year, Entasis announced positive topline results from its Phase II clinical trial of ETX2514, a beta-lactamase inhibitor, in combination with sulbactam, to treat complicated urinary tract infections (cUTI) including acute pyelonephritis (kidney infection) in adults. Novo Holdings pointed to that company’s preclinical pipeline, which includes a new class of non-β-lactam PBP Inhibitors (NBP) targeting multi-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa infections, also supported by the Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Biopharmaceutical Accelerator (CARB-X). Also last year, Entasis joined the Antimicrobials Working Group (AWG), which includes 18 antimicrobial drug and diagnostic device development companies. The AWG has a vision of improving the regulatory, investment and commercial environment for emerging infectious disease companies.

The REPAIR fund also invested a little more than $4 million (€3.6 million) into Minervax, a Danish biotech company that was spun out of Lund University. Minervax is developing a prophylactic vaccine against group B Streptococcus (GBS) responsible for 50% of life-threatening infections in newborns, as well as stillbirths and preterm deliveries in pregnant women.

Also, the fund was used to provide an infusion of $1.5 million (€1.5 million) into U.K.-based Procarta Biosystems. Procarta is developing a pipeline of antibacterials from its oligonucleotide antimicrobial platform. The platform has a novel nanoparticle approach targeting a new class of antibiotics targets, transcription factors. Procarta’s lead asset is PRO-202, a preclinical therapeutic aimed at treating complicated urinary tract infections and complicated intra-abdominal infections.

The fourth company boosted by Novo Holdings’ REPAIR fund was Polyphor. That company is developing novel outer membrane protein-targeting antibiotics addressing the World Health Organization’s five deadliest and most resistant Gram-negative bacterial pathogens. The REPAIR fund has already invested $6.8 million and plans to invest another $4.4 million if the company hits certain milestones with its programs.

In addition to announcing its investments for last year, Novo Holdings, tapped Dr. John H. Rex, a noted leader in the field of infectious disease therapy, as the chairman of its Scientific Selection Board.

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