Nordic Life Science 1
thing about the COVID-19 pandemic, it could perha
ps be our increased awareness of infectious diseases. “The COVID-19 pandemic has been a mind-opener to society’s vulnerability for infectious diseases in general. This includes the importance of having a wellequipped tool-box with antibiotics and adjuvants to keep antimicrobial resistance (AMR) at bay,” says Pål Rongved, professor at the Department of Pharmacy at the University of Oslo (UiO) and CEO/CSO of AdjuTec Pharma. The company focuses on developing adjuvant products to be combined with antibiotics to protect them against bacteria antibiotic resistant enzymes. “If vaccine programs soon will take society back to “normal”, development of our lead product, APC148, will not be negatively affected. On the contrary, we see that viral pandemic patients often suffer from bacterial secondary lung infections. If these infections resist treatment with marketed antibiotics, this is an opportunity to help with our technology.” AdjuTec began as an oncology project in 2009, but the substances studied early on showed remarkable effects in hundreds of resistant bacterial strains, describes Rongved. At first the research project was funded by private (e.g., Novo Nordisk) and public grants (e.g., the Norwegian Research Council), supporting the preclinical studies. In order to attract further funding, with help from Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator, Rongved and coworkers decided to establish AdjuTec Pharma in 2019. “It was necessary to establish a team to drive development of the company forward,” says Rongved. The company’s vision is to develop and provide a platform of novel antibiotic resistance breakers in order to retain efficacy and facilitate reduced use of antibiotics. Their lead product, a metallo lactamase resistance breaker, APC148, inactivates bacterial resistance enzymes, making the bacteria sensitive to traditional antibiotics again. In more detail, it destroys vital bacterial carbapenem-resistance mechanisms (betalactamases) and prevents bacteria defending themselves against the antibiotic. Zinc-containing enzymes, the metallo lactamases (MBLs), are emerging as the most alarming resistance mechanisms. There are currently no marketed, clinically efficient available agents active against carbapenem-destroying MBLs. “New antibiotics nearly always suffer from bacteria developing resistance mechanisms for protection. Pål Rongved, CEO/CSO, AdjuTec Pharma Initial studies in meropenem resistant bacteria strains do not indicate that this is the case with the combination of APC148 and meropenem, no new resistance genes for the adjuvant was found. This possibly relates to the fact that APC148 has no effect on the bacteria themselves, only on their defense enzymes. In addition, initial efficacy and safety data, both in-vitro and in-vivo, show good efficacy on clinical resistant bacteria strains and with an excellent safety profile,” says Rongved. The need for new technologies to fight AMR is urgent. Resistance to carbapenem antibiotics, the last line of defense for many patients, is increasing globally. “It is alarming. This silent pandemic is estimated to take an increasing number of lives, from 700,000 today to possibly ten million deaths annually by 2050, according to global reports (O’Neill, 2017),” says Rongved. The most important measure, he believes, will be to reduce misuse of antibiotics, both in agriculture and human medicine. “In addition, development and commercialization of new therapeutics needs to be incentivized to broaden the armament of society to fight bacteria resistance,” he adds.