Monash antibiotic drug discovery to be developed in China

L-R Associate Professor Tony Velkov, Professor Philip Thompson, Professor Jian Li, Dr Kade Roberts, Professor Roger Nation
L-R Associate Professor Tony Velkov, Professor Philip Thompson, Professor Jian Li, Dr Kade Roberts, Professor Roger Nation

A new polymyxin antibiotic targeting Gram-negative ‘superbug’ infections, developed by scientists at the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences and the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI), Monash University, will undergo development and commercialisation in China by Brii Biosciences.

Qpex Biopharma, a USA-based biopharmaceutical company that develops innovative anti-infective therapies, recently announced that it has entered into a multi-product collaboration with Brii Biosciences to develop, manufacture and commercialise three novel anti-infective drugs in China. This partnership includes a polymyxin drug candidate that Qpex in-licensed from Monash University earlier this year.

Brii Biosciences, a biotechnology company developing novel drug therapies for the Chinese market, was granted a licence to the investigational antibiotics in Greater China, including mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau. Qpex will continue developing Monash’s polymyxin drug candidate for use in the United States and other global markets.

Professor Jian Li, from the Monash BDI, leads Monash’s polymyxin drug development.

“We are thrilled to see our novel polymyxins undergo development for the large Chinese market. Life-threatening infections caused by Gram-negative ‘superbugs’ are a global medical challenge that needs to be urgently addressed,” Professor Li said.

By 2050, antimicrobial-resistant infections could kill 10 million people per year, costing the world a cumulative US$100 trillion of economic output1. Polymyxin antibiotics, including polymyxin B and colistin, are often the only option available for doctors to treat Gram-negative ‘superbugs’ such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Acinetobacter baumannii and Klebsiella pneumoniae, which are resistant to all other antibiotics. However, kidney toxicity and poor efficacy against lung infections have significantly limited their clinical use.

Monash researchers developed a portfolio of proprietary new-generation polymyxin antibiotics with potential for much improved safety and efficacy over currently used polymyxins. The project was supported by the United States National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) grant R01AI098771 as well as NIAID’s preclinical service.

The development of these novel polymyxins by Qpex Biopharma and now Brii Biosciences brings them a step closer to the clinic.

1 Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, Antimicrobial Resistance: Tackling a Crisis for the Health and Wealth of Nations, 2014, pp. 5-6


About the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute

Committed to making the discoveries that will relieve the future burden of disease, the newly established Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute at Monash University brings together more than 120 internationally-renowned research teams. Our researchers are supported by world-class technology and infrastructure, and partner with industry, clinicians and researchers internationally to enhance lives through discovery.

About the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences (MIPS)

MIPS is home to Australia’s largest group of pharmaceutical sciences researchers, with more than 250 research-active staff and 240 PhD students. MIPS’ tagline is ‘Better Medicines by Design’ and this captures a vision for excellence in translational drug discovery and development.  Its research has contributed to Monash University’s ranking of #3 in the world for pharmacy and pharmacology in the 2019 QS World University Rankings by Subject, and positioning in the top two institutions for the number of Highly Cited Researchers (Clarivate Analytics) in the field of pharmacology and toxicology.