Superbugs are among the most significant health concerns for the world’s governments and medical practitioners.
The US Department of Health & Human Services and its agency BARDA, for example, routinely hand out millions of dollars in grants to companies working on ways to tackle anti-microbial or antibiotic resistance.
The urgency and size of the market offers huge potential for any company that can come up with a new way to treat infections safely and Destiny Pharma PLC (LON:DEST) believes it can be the one that does.
An AIM listing in September at 157p raised £15mln. For a small private company to pull in that amount of money underlines both the medical need and opportunity for both its lead drug and other compounds still in the clinic.
Breakthrough in anti-microbial resistance
Neil Clark, a veteran of a couple of AIM listings already before Destiny, explains that its most advanced product XF-73, is potentially a breakthrough in the area of hospital–generated infections.
All the cleaning and hygiene in the world cannot stop an infection called Staphylococcus aureus, he says, which is carried in the nose of 30% of the world’s population and infects an unfortunate few patients when they undergo an operation.
Studies so far, though, indicate the way XF-73 operates makes it different from other anti-microbial agents.
A topical gel that is applied in the nose, it is fast acting and the bacteria is killed within 15 minutes, which means little opportunity to mutate and generate resistance.
In five studies carried out so far on 160 patients, no resistance was identified in four common strains of MRSA, while it proved effective against a whole range of other bacteria ranging from listeria through to C.difficile.
US regulator the Food and Drug Administration granted the drug Qualifying Infectious Disease Product (QIDP) status in 2015 and even established a new indication for the treatment: 'Prevention of post-surgical staphylococcal infections', including MRSA.
QIDP status is reserved for serious or life-threatening infections including those caused by antibiotic resistant pathogens
XF-73’s most recent trial, a Phase I/IIa, was funded by NIAID, the US government's expert division on anti-microbial drugs, and indicated a reduction in the spread of nasal S.aureus in healthy volunteers.
Before an operation, patients are tested for S.aureus and those with a positive result receive XF-73.
The next step for the drug is a Phase IIB trial, which will establish dosing levels and give a better indication of efficacy.
Around 220 patients will be tested with the results due in the early part of 2019. Proceeds from the AIM listing will cover the cost, says Clark.
One partner has already backed the drug with hard cash. China Medical Systems, a US$4bn Hong Kong-listed drug distributor and marketer, invested £3mln in the IPO and has also set up a collaboration, giving it distribution rights to the XF platform in the Greater China region.
The hospital infection market being targeted by XF-73 is worth around US$1bn, but the additional potential of the platform is also an important part of the future of Destiny, says Clark.
A variation of XF-73 is under development to tackle the problem of throat-carried S.aureus, which can cause a condition known as ventilator associated pneumonia (VAP) in patients in intensive care units.
Around 30 other compounds are in the pre-clinical pipeline, the most advanced of which is XF-70, a treatment to stop infections in wounds and burns and potentially skin conditions such as acne.
This has already got the attention of the US military, which has provided some early stage funding.
Destiny is also assessing the XF platform’s effectiveness against biofilms, a new area of research that is being linked with chronic and recurring conditions such as cystic fibrosis.
The pre-clinical pipeline will keep news flowing ahead of the result of the key XF-73 trial, which for all of the pipeline promise will likely be a pivotal moment for Destiny.
Clark is upbeat: “We own the intellectual property, we‘ve raised the money, now we just have to get down to work.”
At 139p, Destiny is valued at £53mln.