WASHINGTON—The Pew Charitable Trusts announced today that Novartis has shared data from its antibiotic research programs on Pew’s open-access Shared Platform for Antibiotic Research and Knowledge (SPARK). The move follows Achaogen’s commitment in October to provide SPARK with data from its own discontinued antibiotic research program, and further expands the free, interactive resource, which scientists around the world are using to pursue antibiotic research.
Novartis shared data from its LpxA, LpxD, and LpxK antibacterial programs that explored new ways to attack Gram-negative bacteria, a class of pathogens that includes some of the most dangerous superbugs because of their tough defense mechanisms. These research programs were discontinued earlier this year.
“Antibiotic resistance is among the world’s most pressing public health challenges, and figuring out how to defeat antibiotic-resistant Gram-negative bacteria is essential to meeting this challenge,” said Allan Coukell, Pew’s senior director of health programs. “Our hope is that the data from these early research programs will reinvigorate the pipeline of antibiotics in development. Novartis’s willingness to make this contribution ensures that its scientific investment can be used by any researcher in the quest to solve the global problem of antibiotic resistance.”
Launched in September, SPARK aims to help spur basic scientific research to overcome barriers preventing the development of novel antibiotics. The platform is part of Pew’s ongoing work to advance the goals set forth in its Scientific Roadmap for Antibiotic Discovery, bringing together chemical and biological data from published studies and previously unpublished work, such as the Novartis data, on a user-friendly, cloud-based platform. Open to researchers from all sectors—industry, academia, government, and nonprofit—SPARK enables scientists to share information, learn from past research, and generate new insights.
“Drug discovery is a team sport, and we are committed to partnering and sharing data with innovators who are focused on developing medicines that address global health challenges,” said Jay Bradner, president of the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research. “We hope that contributing our data to SPARK will help improve information sharing within the global research community working on antibiotic resistance and inspire other companies to do the same.”
Novel drugs, those with new molecular structures that operate differently from existing antibiotics, are needed to overcome resistance in Gram-negative bacteria, yet there are far too few such products in development. Pew’s most recent analysis of the antibiotic pipeline shows that of the 17 antibiotics in development that are potentially active against infections caused by Gram-negative pathogens, only one represents a novel drug class. Historical data show that only about 1 in 5 drugs in development to treat infectious disease will ultimately receive approval from the Food and Drug Administration and reach patients.
“The reality is that bacteria are developing resistance faster than we’re finding new drugs to defeat them. In order to change that, we must salvage and make the most of every bit of data out there—published or unpublished,” said Lynn Silver, an independent consultant in antibacterial discovery, and one of the experts who works with Pew to continually update SPARK. “We’ve already lost countless years of experience in the industry exodus from antibiotic research and development,” added Silver, “as researchers with a lifetime of expertise in antibiotic discovery have retired or moved on to other therapeutic areas. SPARK gives us the opportunity to make sure we don’t lose all of their work product by providing an open-access resource where that information can live and be useful into the future. Novartis should be commended for sharing its data. It’s the right thing to do, and hopefully other research programs will follow suit.”
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