More than 30 European universities and companies, led by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Uppsala University in Sweden, are joining forces in a €85m six-year programme funded by the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) for developming new antibiotics to combat Gram-negative pathogens.

Despite the growing epidemic of antibiotics resistance, only two new classes of antibiotics have been brought to the market in the last 30 years, necessitating the discovery of new antibiotics.

However, the discovery and development of new antibiotics poses significant scientific, clinical, and financial challenges especially against Gram-negative bacteria, which have effective barriers against drugs.

In order to overcome the barriers witnessed in the development of new antibiotics, IMI has launched New Drugs for Bad Bugs (ND4BB), a series of projects to overcome the bottlenecks in the development and effective use of novel antibiotics.

IMI is a research partnership between the European Commission and major pharmaceutical companies (through EFPIA, the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations).

The project, ENABLE (‘European Gram-Negative Antibacterial Engine’), spans 13 countries and brings together 32 partners. It is aimed at developing new antibiotics, particularly against Gram-negative bacteria such as E.coli.

"We are committed with the global research effort for the discovery of new antibiotics."

The major goal of the six-year ENABLE project, the third within the ND4BB series, is to establish a significant anti-bacterial drug discovery platform for the progression of research programmes through discovery and Phase I clinical trials.

It will later be expanded through open calls with an aim to provide at least one novel anti-bacterial candidate against Gram-negative infections into Phase II clinical trials by 2019.

MEDINA is an independent non-profit R&D organisation, jointly formed by MSD (Merck), the government of Andalucía and the University of Granada in Spain. It will develop its first novel antibiotic under the European partnership aimed at bringing new solutions to combat bacterial infectious diseases.

MEDINA scientific director Olga Genilloud said: "Our participation in this programme represents a fantastic opportunity to jointly develop one of our most advanced compounds in our pipeline.

"We are committed with the global research effort for the discovery of new antibiotics, as continuity of a long history of success which has resulted in some of the most important breakthrough drugs available to patients today."

Image: Gram-negative pathogens. Photo: courtesy of