CARB-X is funding Basilea Pharmaceutica to develop a new class of antibiotics to treat drug-resistant Gram-negative bacteria

CARB-X is funding Basilea Pharmaceutica to develop a new class of antibiotics to treat drug-resistant Gram-negative bacteria

Basilea’s new drug targets drug-resistant bacteria identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as ‘critical’ pathogens against which new antibiotics are urgently needed

(BOSTON: May 19, 2021) – CARB-X is awarding Basilea Pharmaceutica International (SIX: BSLN), Basel, Switzerland, up to US $2.7 million to develop a novel class of antibiotics to treat Gram-negative bacterial infections. Gram-negative bacteria, often called ‘superbugs’ because they have developed resistance at an alarming pace to existing antibiotics, kill an estimated 700,000 people each year around the world.

Erin Duffy, CARB-X R&D Chief

“Drug-resistant bacteria represent an urgent and growing health crisis and the world needs new classes of antibiotics to treat life-threatening infections,” said Erin Duffy, R&D Chief of CARB-X, a non-profit global partnership led by Boston University and dedicated to supporting the development of innovative therapeutics, preventatives and diagnostics to address antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections. “The Basilea project is in the early stages of development, with a novel chemical class working with a novel mechanism of inhibition of bacterial growth. Together, these offer a potential advantage where the development of resistance is concerned and – as such – offer great promise for a new therapy to treat serious hospital infections.”

Dr. Laurenz Kellenberger, Basilea Chief Scientific Officer, said: “The medical problem of antimicrobial resistance keeps increasing. Therefore, new antibiotics are urgently needed that will be able to address resistance that is growing against current treatment options. We are delighted to be partnering with CARB-X for the development of truly innovative antibiotics directed against an unexploited bacterial target. Basilea remains committed to leverage its proven ability in the discovery, development and commercialization
of novel anti-infectives to deliver new treatment options to patients facing bacterial drug-resistance worldwide.”

Basilea’s project aims to develop selective small-molecule inhibitors of 1-deoxy-D-xylulose 5-phosphate reductor isomerase (DXR), an enzyme in the bacterial isoprenoid biosynthesis pathway. This enzyme is essential for the survival of many Gram-negative bacteria, including carbapenem-resistant Enterobacterales and Acinetobacter baumannii as well as multidrug-resistant (MDR) Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which are listed by  the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) as urgent and serious threats, or critical pathogens, respectively, against which new antibiotics are urgently needed.

Drug-resistance a growing global health crisis

Each year, 700,000 children and adults die from antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections, including 33,000 Europeans and 35,000 Americans.

A recent WHO report sounded the alarm about the lack of new drugs in development to address the growing global threat of drug-resistance and the lack of novelty in the world’s later-stage pipeline, which currently has 43 antibiotics in clinical development. Additionally, the WHO reports that new antibiotics that have been brought to market in recent decades are mostly variations of antibiotic drugs classes discovered prior to the 1980s.  Novelty is critical to address the resistance which exists for most of the classes of antibiotics which are in use today.

To meet these challenges, CARB-X funds pre-clinical and early clinical (Phase 1) stage projects focused exclusively on antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The CARB-X portfolio currently has 59 active projects, including 19 new classes of antibiotics.

Supporting global innovation to address antibiotic resistance  

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. The goal is to support projects through the early phases of development so that they will attract additional private or public support for further clinical development and regulatory approval for use in patients.

Since its launch in 2016, CARB-X has announced 89 awards worth more than $333.6 million, with the potential of additional funds if project milestones are met, subject to available funding. These funds are in addition to investments made by the companies themselves.

CARB-X funds only projects that target antibiotic-resistant bacteria highlighted on the CDC 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.

CARB-X funding for this research 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 of this news release 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
+1 514 914 8974

Basilea Pharmaceutica International Ltd.
Peer Nils Schröder, PhD
Head of Corporate Communications & Investor Relations
+41 61 606 1102

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, 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. 

About Basilea
Basilea is a commercial-stage biopharmaceutical company founded in 2000 and headquartered in Switzerland. We are committed to discovering, developing and commercializing innovative drugs to meet the medical needs of patients with cancer and infectious diseases. We have successfully launched two hospital brands, Cresemba for the treatment of invasive fungal infections and Zevtera for the treatment of severe bacterial infections. We are conducting clinical studies with two targeted drug candidates for the treatment of a range of cancers and have a number of preclinical assets in both cancer and infectious diseases in our portfolio. Basilea is listed on the SIX Swiss Exchange (SIX: BSLN). Please visit

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