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AMR Action Fund Announces First Investments in Adaptive Phage Therapeutics and Venatorx Pharmaceuticals

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Article published on amractionfund.com on April 4, 2022

Deals mark an important step toward AMR Action Fund’s goal of bringing two to four new antibiotics to market to take on growing threat of drug-resistant bacteria

The AMR Action Fund, the world’s largest public-private partnership investing in biotech companies that are developing antibiotics, announced today that it has invested in Adaptive Phage Therapeutics (APT) and Venatorx Pharmaceuticals. The transactions mark the Fund’s first investments and are an important step toward its goals of bringing to market new treatments for priority pathogens identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“From inception, the AMR Action Fund has focused on identifying investments that will yield urgently needed treatments and catalyze long-term innovation to take on the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), which now kills more people annually than HIV/AIDS or malaria,” said Bill Burns, Board Chair of the AMR Action Fund. “Welcoming Adaptive Phage Therapeutics and Venatorx Pharmaceuticals as our first portfolio companies demonstrates that we are well on our way to fulfilling this important mission.”

Drug-resistant bacterial infections directly kill an estimated 1.27 million people annually. Studies have projected that these infections could kill as many as 10 million people each year by 2050 and cost the global economy $100 trillion. Very few treatments are in development that target WHO priority pathogens, and investment into antimicrobials has not kept pace with the threat to global health security.

Recognizing this problem, over twenty pharmaceutical companies that are members of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA), together with the WHO, the European Investment Bank, and the Wellcome Trust, launched the AMR Action Fund by raising nearly $1 billion. The Fund, which operates independently, will in the coming years make equity investments in biotechs with the overall goal of bringing two to four new antibiotics to patients within a decade.

“Adaptive Phage Therapeutics and Venatorx Pharmaceuticals are poised to change the treatment landscape for drug-resistant infections and deliver significant benefit to patients,” said AMR Action Fund CEO, Henry Skinner. “While this is a major milestone for the Fund, our work is just beginning. We plan to commit over $100 million in capital this year in companies developing clinically differentiated antimicrobials with the potential to treat the most urgent unmet clinical needs, and we will continue investing in promising biotechs in the years ahead to ensure that patients around the world have the treatments they need in the ever-evolving fight against superbugs. Our investments are substantial, but we alone are not enough to take on the global challenge of AMR. It is now imperative that policymakers around the world enact market reforms to support investment in these urgently needed medications.”

APT’s approach leverages an ever-growing library of systematically discovered, selected, catalogued, and curated bacteriophages (phages), naturally occurring viruses that infect and kill bacteria, which collectively provide broad coverage against many of the world’s highest priority antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Phages from APT’s phage bank are matched to treat patients’ infections through a proprietary susceptibility assay, and are being tested on a range of infections, including prosthetic joint infections, bone infections (osteomyelitis), and lung infections. The AMR Action Fund’s investment in APT was executed as an extension to a Series B round led by Deerfield Management Company.

Greg Merril, APT CEO and Co-Founder, said, “We are thrilled to be among the AMR Action Fund’s first portfolio companies, and eager to leverage their scientific and industry expertise as we continue to advance our phage-based therapies through clinical testing.”

Venatorx Pharmaceuticals’ pipeline includes beta-lactam / beta-lactamase inhibitors in intravenous and oral formulations that target drug-resistant gram-negative bacteria. Cefepime-taniborbactam, the company’s Phase III intravenous product, is being developed for the treatment of complicated urinary tract infections (cUTI), hospital-acquired bacterial pneumonia, and ventilator-associated bacterial pneumonia. Recently announced Phase III data showed that cefepime-taniborbactam was superior to meropenem in the treatment of cUTI.  The AMR Action Fund’s investment in Venatorx was executed as part of a Series C round, with Abingworth Management joining as a co-investor.

“This latest round of investment puts us in a strong position to seek regulatory approval of cefepime-taniborbactam while also driving forward other products in our pipeline,” said Venatorx Pharmaceuticals’ President and CEO, Chris Burns.

Martin Heidecker, AMR Action Fund’s Chief Investment Officer, added, “Antimicrobials have been overlooked and undervalued by venture funds and other sources of private equity despite the urgent medical need and governments publicly committing to pursue market reforms to support companies developing these lifesaving medications. Our investments in Adaptive Phage and Venatorx are built on strong partnerships with co-investors who, like us, see the potential to generate significant value in companies pursuing novel treatments to drug-resistant infections.”

For more information contact Chris Sweeney: chris.sweeney@amractionfund.com.

About the AMR Action Fund

The AMR Action Fund is the world’s largest public-private partnership investing in antibiotics, antifungals, and other antimicrobial treatments. The Fund will invest US$1 billion into clinical-stage biotech companies to help bring new antibiotics to market. The concept of the AMR Action Fund was developed by the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations and its member biopharmaceutical companies, in collaboration with the World Health Organization, the European Investment Bank, and the Wellcome Trust. Investors in the AMR Action Fund include: Almirall; Amgen; Bayer; Boehringer Ingelheim; Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation; Chugai; Daiichi-Sankyo; Eisai; Eli Lilly and Company; the European Investment Bank (with the support of the European Commission under Horizon 2020, the 2014-2020 European Union research and innovation program); GlaxoSmithKline; Johnson & Johnson; LEO Pharma; Lundbeck; Menarini; Merck; Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany; Novartis; Novo Nordisk; Novo Nordisk Foundation; Pfizer; Roche; Shionogi; Takeda; Teva; UCB; and the Wellcome Trust.