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Pfizer purchases Amplyx to expand drug-resistant therapy portfolio

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CHICAGO: Pfizer announced Wednesday, April 28, that it had acquired privately held Amplyx Pharmaceuticals, which is developing a new treatment for fungal infections resistant to “superbug” drugs in patients with weakened immune systems.

If approved, Amplyx’s leading drug, fosmanogepix, would be the first new class of antifungal therapy in 20 years. Terms of the contract are not disclosed.

Fungi, like bacteria, can develop the ability to defeat drugs designed to kill them.

Drug-resistant fungi are a growing problem for hospital patients with weakened immune systems. Currently, there are only three classes of antifungal therapy for these patients, and resistance to these drugs is increasing.

While Pfizer has been in the news in recent months for its COVID-19 vaccine, developed with its German partner BioNTech SE, the New York-based drugmaker has quietly built its portfolio of treatments to tackle the slower threat of superbugs. drug resistant. , which are on track to kill 10 million people a year by 2050.

The pipeline for these drugs has dried up due to the high cost of research and low profit margins. But pathogens continue to develop resistance to existing treatments, raising the specter of incurable infections that could spread quickly.

“COVID-19 has shown the world what untreated infectious diseases look like,” said Pol Vandenbroucke, chief medical officer of Pfizer’s hospital business unit, in a telephone interview.

Last July, Pfizer contributed US $ 100 million to a US $ 1 billion antimicrobial resistance (AMR) action fund to support struggling manufacturers of new antimicrobial agents and maintain a pipeline of new antimicrobial agents. treatments. The group aims to bring two to four new antibiotics to patients by 2030.

Last October, Pfizer struck a deal with Arixa Pharmaceuticals, a company making a next-generation oral antibiotic that, if approved, would be one of the first new drugs of its kind in 35 years.

Public health officials have urged programs to keep using these treatments only when absolutely necessary to help prevent the emergence of drug-resistant bugs.

But these conservation strategies provide little incentive for pharmaceutical companies to invest without hope of recovering these costs.

Kevin Outterson of Boston University leads Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria Biopharmaceutical Accelerator (CARB-X), a global program to support developers of promising new antibiotics, diagnostics and vaccines that tackle the threat of incurable bacterial infections.

He compared the difficult business model of antibiotics to that of vaccines.

“With vaccines, you want to put it in as many arms as possible. With a new antibiotic, you kind of want to do the opposite, which is why it’s hard to make money,” he said. declared.

Outterson sees the industry’s latest investments as last-minute efforts to keep small businesses in business until countries adopt more sustainable payment models.

In the United States, the bipartisan PASTEUR Act aims to change the way the government pays for antimicrobial treatments, pricing them based on their public health value rather than units sold.

In the UK, Pfizer is part of a new subscription payment model that prepays pharmaceutical companies for access to medicines based on their utility.

Outterson likens these projects to a fire extinguisher, something you buy and hope you never need.

Pfizer’s acquisition of San Diego-based Amplyx follows an initial investment in December 2019 as part of a Series C financing. According to PitchBook, the company was valued at US $ 189 million after its last funding cycle in 2020.

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