Anitbiotics developer Cempra Pharmaceuticals is shoring up its drug pipeline with a licensing deal that gives the company rights to commercialize compounds using “click chemistry” technology from The Scripps Research Institute.
With the deal Cempra could develop, test and bring to market new antibiotics that overcome the bacterial resistance of nasty strains such as MRSA. But Cempra’s rights to the technology are exclusive only to China, excluding Hong Kong; South Korea; and Australia, according to a securities filing.
Chapel Hill-based Cempra entered the licensing deal on June 12.
According to Cempra’s filing, the drug developer is paying Scripps a one-time license fee of $350,000. The company must also pay Scripps $50,000 annually for the first three years of the agreement and $85,000 from the fourth year onward. If any commercialized products emerge from the agreement, Scripps stands to gain royalties on net sales. Scripps is also eligible for up to $1.1 million in regulatory milestones. The length of the agreement varies on a country by country basis, depending on the expiration of the patent rights in each market.
Cempra CEO Prabhavathi Fernandes was unavailable for comment. In the securities filing, the company said that the full agreement will be filed along with the company’s second quarter 2012 report. But the company did say the agreement gives Cempra rights to make, use, sell and import therapeutic products for humans or animals that use macrolides as the active pharmaceutical ingredient.
Macrolides are a class of antibiotics that have been used for decades to treat a range of bacterial infections. The widely used antibiotic erythromycin is one example of a macrolide. Cempra already has its own library of macrolide candidates that has so far yielded its lead drug candidate CEM-101, also called solithromycin, an experimental antibiotic being studied as a treatment for community-acquired bacterial pneumonia. The company has also started a phase 2 trial studying CEM-101 as a gonorrhea treatment.
The macrolides covered by Scripps’ 2008 patent use copper to catalyze reactions that form new molecules. Scripps scientist Barry Sharpless, winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize for chemistry, used the term “click chemistry” to describe these reactions where chemical components bind and “click” together like pieces of a seat belt that connect at the buckle
Scripps collaborated with scientists at the Kitasato Institute in Tokyo, Japan to study compounds derived from the macrolide erythromycin.
In a 2008 report, Scripps said that the scientists found activity against four strains of MRSA and two strains resistant to vancomycin – the antibiotic of last resort.
While Cempra’s deal will allow it to use the Scripps technology to develop new antibiotics, it’s not the only company using Scripps’ click chemistry. The technology has a broad range of applications and last year Scripps licensed its click chemistry technology to Cambridge, Massachusetts peptide-based drugs developer Aileron Therapeutics and Seattle molecular diagnostics firm Integrated Diagnostics.