ENABLE-2 takes the lead in the pursuit of new antibiotics

2022-03-21

The Swedish Research Council's investment in ENABLE-2 has, with support from Vinnova, launched with four projects that are considered very promising in the pursuit for new antibiotics. In the first round of admissions, two projects from Uppsala University, and one each from Linköping University and the biotech company QureTech Bio AB were selected for development.

Anders Karlén, Professor and coordinator of ENABLE-2
Anders Karlén and Diarmaid Hughes, ENABLE-2

Resistant bacteria are one of the biggest threats to our health, making the development of new antibiotics an urgent challenge for research. The Swedish Research Council is therefore investing SEK 25 million in ENABLE-2, a national continuation of the European collaboration ENABLE, which has developed several antibacterial drug Candidates. The coordinator for both initiatives is Anders Karlén, professor at Uppsala University's Faculty of Pharmacy.

“With the support of the Swedish Research Council, we continue to build on the very successful foundation we have laid during ENABLE, for the development of new antibiotics against WHO priority pathogens. Our current funding covers 2022, but our ambition is for ENABLE-2 to remain active longer than that, preferably in collaboration with funders and research environments in other European countries, and our launch and initial progress has been very positive,” states Diarmaid Hughes, co-coordinator for ENABLE-2.

ENABLE-2 provides project support both in the form of experimental work and antibacterial drug discovery expertise during the early stages of antibiotic development, and the initiative created great interest among researchers in both academia and biotech companies. An initial call generated several high-quality applications, among which an independent committee selected four proposals for inclusion in the platform. Two of the projects are resident at the Faculty of Pharmacy, Uppsala University.

Luke Odell, the Faculty of Pharmacy
Luke Odell, the Faculty of Pharmacy

“We have created a molecule with promising properties for continued chemical development. Via ENABLE-2, we have gained access to expertise and resources in the techniques required for early drug development. This is exactly the support we need to take the next step, and within a year I expect that we will be ready to take our concept further to in vivo proof-of-concept studies,” says research leader Luke Odell.

In the second Uppsala University project, which has been developed in ENABLE for more than two years, Anders Karlén and co-workers have identified a new compound class showing antibacterial efficacy in animal model tests.

“That we have been selected and given the opportunity to continue to refine these molecules in ENABLE-2 is absolutely crucial to be able to take this project further in the development chain towards a new antibiotic,” states Anders Karlén.

At Linköping University, a research group led by Frank Hernandez is developing a first-in-class antibiotic for treating multidrug-resistant bacteria. Their approach is a pro-drug system that targets the pathogenic bacteria in a specific manner, followed by the subsequent drug release.

“The ENABLE-2 program provides the platform for translating our research findings into a drug development program, with the potential to start human clinical trials in the coming years," says research group leader Frank Hernandez.

Innovative drug development is of course also conducted in the private sector, and through collaboration with Vinnova, small and medium sized companies can also access the ENABLE-2 platform. In the fourth project, QureTech Bio AB has discovered a new class of antibacterial compounds and has very well-developed chemistry to be able to change and improve these new antibacterials.

“The competent support provided by ENABLE-2 and the resources available are fantastic. This leads the development forward in a structured way and we will reach the next phase more efficiently," says Fredrik Almqvist, Research director at QureTech Bio AB.

Uppsala University's leading roles in ENABLE and the IMI AMR Accelerator project COMBINE have contributed to the University's Faculty of Pharmacy today being able to mobilise all the experience and expertise required to lead collaborations of this scope.

"The fact that we have now been funded by the Swedish Research Council to coordinate ENABLE-2 is a clear confirmation of the respect and trust we have developed in the field of antibiotic discovery and development," says Anders Karlén.

FACTS

  • ENABLE-2 is a national platform that offers project support for the development of antibacterial drugs.
  • ENABLE-2 is funded with SEK 25 million by the Swedish Research Council
  • SMEs receiving positive evaluation from ENABLE-2 can apply for funding from Vinnova
  • ENABLE-2 is coordinated at the Faculty of Pharmacy, Uppsala University.
  • ENABLE was initiated in 2014 through the Innovative Medicines Initiative, a collaboration between the European Commission and the European pharmaceutical industry with the aim of taking a drug candidate all the way to testing on humans. By the end of the project in October 2021, several promising Lead and Candidate molecules had been developed and one Candidate had completed a Phase I study with a positive outcome.

MORE INFORMATION

CONTACT

Anders KarlénAnders Karlén, coordinator, Professor
The Faculty of Pharmacy
anders.karlen@ilk.uu.se

text: Magnus Alsne, photo: Mikael Wallerstedt, Uppsala University

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Last modified: 2022-03-31