CARB-X is funding a German team of scientists to develop a new treatment for difficult-to-treat Pseudomonas aeruginosa infections in cystic fibrosis patients

CARB-X is funding a German team of scientists to develop a new treatment for difficult-to-treat Pseudomonas aeruginosa infections in cystic fibrosis patients

Helmholtz Institute for Pharmaceutical Research Saarland (HIPS) team could receive up to US$6.31 million if all milestones are successfully met  

(BOSTON: December 1, 2020) – CARB-X is awarding up to US$1.75 million to the Helmholtz Institute for Pharmaceutical Research Saarland (HIPS) in Saarbrücken, Germany, to develop an innovative treatment for Pseudomonas aeruginosa infections in cystic fibrosis patients. The project could be eligible for up to $4.56 million more in awards if project milestones are met. The new treatment – indirect-acting small-molecule inhibitors of Elastase (LasB) – aims to disarm pathogens and suppress the disease-causing properties of P. aeruginosa bacteria, instead of killing the bacteria as an antibiotic would aim to do.

The research team is led by Professor Anna Hirsch, head of Drug Design and Optimization at HIPS, which is part of Germany’s prestigious Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) in collaboration with Saarland University. The team is also collaborating with partners at the Paris-based INSERM institute, as well as the HZI in Braunschweig.

Patients with cystic fibrosis suffer from severe cough and lack of oxygen. Their lungs accumulate a thick mucus, making it easier for pathogens like P. aeruginosa to lodge and reproduce. The result is a chronic inflammation of the lung, eventually leading to the degradation of lung tissue. The situation becomes particularly exacerbated when the disease-causing germs are resistant to front-line antibiotics.

“The rise of antibiotic resistance in pathogens like P. aeruginosa is a global health threat and it is particularly threatening for people with cystic fibrosis who are susceptible to bacterial infections,” said Erin Duffy, R&D Chief of CARB-X, a global non-profit partnership led by Boston University and dedicated to funding and supporting the development of innovative products to address antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections. “The HIPS project is in the early stages of development and holds particular promise because, if successful, it would block or disable the infection-causing capabilities of this pathogen.  As the second LasB program in our portfolio, the HIPS project also will aid in our efforts to unlock the value of non-traditional approaches for the delivery of novel treatments for infections caused by antibiotic-resistant pathogens.”

Professor Hirsch’s non-traditional ‘pathoblocker’ approach of disarming the P. aeruginosa bacteria could significantly slow the development of resistance in the bacteria. By disarming the pathogens instead of killing them, selection pressure on the pathogens is relieved and resistance is likely to develop more slowly. Professor Hirsch and her team hope their approach could improve the life expectancy and quality of life of cystic fibrosis patients infected with P. aeruginosa.

According to Professor Rolf Müller, Managing Director of the HIPS, said: “The development of antimicrobial resistance is not a question of ‘if’, but a question of ‘when’. If we just render the pathogens harmless instead of killing them, we do not put any selection pressure on them and resistance is likely to develop much slower. Pathoblockers give us the opportunity to make an important step forward in the arms race with the pathogens.”

About Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis is a chronic, progressive and fatal genetic dis­ease of the body’s mucus glands. Individuals with cystic fibrosis can live into their 40s. According to the data collected by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, there are about 30,000 Americans and 20,000 Europeans with the disease.  Mucus in cystic fibrosis patients is very thick and accumulates in the intestines and lungs. The result is malnutrition, poor growth, frequent respiratory infections, breathing difficulties, and eventually permanent lung damage.  Lung disease is the cause of death in most patients.

Supporting global antibacterial innovation to address drug resistance

In a separate announcement today, CARB-X announced an award to another team of HZI researchers. CARB-X announced it is funding researchers from the HZI and the Lead Discovery Center GmbH (LDC) up to US$8.77 million to develop a potent first-in-class drug to disable Staphylococcus aureus pathogens thereby preventing and treating pneumonia and lung infections.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 700,000 people die each year from drug-resistant infections, including 35,000 in the US and 33,000 in Europe. CARB-X funds only projects that target drug-resistant bacteria highlighted on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s Antibiotic Resistant Threats list, or the Priority Bacterial Pathogens list published by the WHO, with a priority on those pathogens deemed Serious or Urgent on the CDC list or Critical or High on the WHO list.

The CARB-X portfolio is the world’s largest and most diverse antibacterial R&D portfolio with 49 active projects focused exclusively on drug-resistant bacteria. CARB-X is investing up to $480 million in non-dilutive funding between 2016-2022 to support the early development of new antibiotics, vaccines, rapid diagnostics and other life-saving products. To date, CARB-X has funded 75 early development projects. The goal is to support therapeutics projects through the early phases of development through Phase 1 so that they will attract additional private or public support for further clinical development and regulatory approval for use in patients.

This news release is supported by the Cooperative Agreement Number IDSEP160030 from ASPR/BARDA and by awards from the Wellcome Trust and Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the HHS Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response, or other CARB-X funders.


Jennifer Robinson

Dr Yannic Nonnenmacher
PR Manager and Scientific Assistant to the Managing Director
Helmholtz-Institute for Pharmaceutical Research Saarland (HIPS)
Campus Building E8.1, 66123 Saarbrücken
Phone +49 681 98806 3021

About CARB-X
Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Biopharmaceutical Accelerator (CARB-X) is a global non-profit partnership dedicated to accelerating early development antibacterial R&D to address the rising global threat of drug-resistant bacteria. CARB-X is led by Boston University and funding is provided by the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR) in the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Wellcome Trust, a global charity based in the UK working to improve health globally, Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the UK Department of Health and Social Care’s Global Antimicrobial Resistance Innovation Fund (GAMRIF), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and with in-kind support from National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH).  CARB-X is investing up to $480 million from 2016-2022 to support innovative antibiotics and other therapeutics, vaccines, and rapid diagnostics. CARB-X supports the world’s largest and most innovative pipeline of preclinical products against drug-resistant infections. CARB-X is headquartered at Boston University School of Law.  Follow us on Twitter @CARB_X.

Helmholtz Institute for Pharmaceutical Research Saarland:
The Helmholtz Institute for Pharmaceutical Research Saarland (HIPS) in Saarbrücken is a branch of the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) in Braunschweig and was established by the HZI and Saarland University in 2009. Its researchers are searching mainly for new agents against infectious diseases, optimise these agents for application in humans and research ways how these agents can be transported best through the body to the site of action.

Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research:
Scientists at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) in Braunschweig and its other sites in Germany are engaged in the study of bacterial and viral infections and the body’s defence mechanisms. They have a profound expertise in natural compound research and its exploitation as a valuable source for novel anti-infectives. As member of the Helmholtz Association and the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF) the HZI performs translational research laying the ground for the development of new treatments and vaccines against infectious diseases.

The US Department of Health and Human Services works to enhance and protect the health and well-being of all Americans, providing for effective health and human services and fostering advances in medicine, public health, and social services. Within HHS, ASPR’s mission is to save lives and protect Americans from 21st century health security threats. ASPR leads the nation’s medical and public health preparedness for, response to, and recovery from disasters and public health emergencies. BARDA provides a comprehensive, integrated, portfolio approach to the advanced research and development, innovation, acquisition, and manufacturing of medical countermeasures – vaccines, drugs, therapeutics, diagnostic tools, and non-pharmaceutical products for public health emergency threats. These threats include chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear agents, pandemic influenza, and emerging infectious diseases. NIH is the primary US federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. NIAID conducts and supports research — at NIH, throughout the United States, and worldwide — to study the causes of infectious and immune-mediated diseases, and to develop better means of preventing, diagnosing and treating these illnesses.

About Wellcome Trust
Wellcome exists to improve health for everyone by helping great ideas to thrive. We’re a global charitable foundation, both politically and financially independent. We support scientists and researchers, take on big problems, fuel imaginations and spark debate. The Wellcome Trust is a charity registered in England and Wales, no. 210183. Its sole trustee is The Wellcome Trust Limited, a company registered in England and Wales, no. 2711000 (whose registered office is at 215 Euston Road, London NW1 2BE, UK).

About BMBF
Education and research are the foundations for our future. The promotion of education, science and research by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) represents an important contribution to securing Germany’s prosperity. Education and research are a Federal Government policy priority, which is reflected in the development of the funding it is making available to these fields. 

About Boston University 
Founded in 1839, Boston University is an internationally recognized institution of higher education and research. With more than 33,000 students, it is the fourth-largest independent university in the United States. BU consists of 17 schools and colleges, along with a number of multi-disciplinary centers and institutes integral to the University’s research and teaching mission. In 2012, BU joined the Association of American Universities (AAU), a consortium of 62 leading research universities in the United States and Canada. For further information, please contact Jeremy Thompson at