Sorrento Therapeutics, Inc. (OTCBB: SRNE; or STI) announced today that its Fast-Track Advanced Technology Small Business Technology Transfer Research (STTR) grant (#1R42AI098182-02) from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), supporting the development of novel human antibody therapeutics to combat Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus or Staph) infections, including methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA), was renewed for the second year of a two year Phase I grant award. Due to the Fast Track status of the grant, if STI meets certain milestones during this second year, STI may be awarded Phase II funding of up to $1 million per year for up to 2 additional years.
Sorrento Therapeutics' anti-MRSA program specifically targets the auto-inducing peptides (AIPs) central to the quorum sensing system of S. aureus that controls virulence factor production, including toxin production. Neutralizing these AIPs leads to a disruption of bacterial communication (quorum quenching) and suppresses Staph virulence. In January of 2010, STI obtained an exclusive license from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) to the quorum quenching technology which lays the scientific foundation for this program.
"The STI team, together with our academic collaborator Dr. Jovanka Voyich at the Montana State University, has done tremendous work in identifying and characterizing fully human anti-AIP antibodies. Our lead antibody has demonstrated significant protection in relevant infection models, including localized skin infection and lethal peritonitis. With the renewal of our anti-MRSA grant award, NIH remains supportive of funding the innovative approach of quorum quenching to tackle the serious healthcare burden of Staph infections," said Barbara Swanson , Ph.D., the Principal Investigator on the grant and a director of research at STI. More comprehensive data analyses will be presented in future conferences or scientific publications.
"We believe that targeting quorum sensing signal molecules using our proprietary technology is an innovative and promising strategy for the prevention and possibly treatment of serious S. aureus infections, including those caused by antibiotic-resistant MRSA strains, as we expect that our antibodies may not be affected by existing drug resistances. We look forward to continue working with our colleagues at Montana State University in developing the novel human antibody therapeutics against MRSA" said Dr. Gunnar F. Kaufmann , the Senior Director of Research and Development at STI and co-inventor of the quorum quenching technology.
For 2005, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that 94,000 serious invasive MRSA infections occurred in the U.S. and more than 19,000 Americans died from these infections - more than from HIV/AIDS. A 2009 study from Duke University Medical Center looking at MRSA infections associated with surgery found a 35-fold increased risk of hospital readmission, a 7-fold increased risk of death, and more than $60,000 of additional charges per infected patient compared to uninfected patients. While the number of life-threatening invasive MRSA infections has begun to decline according to the CDC, a recent report from the Alliance of Prudent Use of Antibiotics (APUA; www.apua.org) indicated that antibiotic-resistant infections overall cost the US healthcare system more than $20 billion each year.