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Roche to Pay Up to $548 Million for ‘Superbug’ Antibiotic

Roche Holding AG agreed to pay as much as 500 million Swiss francs ($548 million) for the rights to an experimental antibiotic to target a drug-resistant “superbug” that is a leading cause of fatal bacterial infections in hospitals.

Polyphor Ltd., the Allschwil, Switzerland-based developer of the antibiotic, will receive 35 million francs up front, and is eligible for further payments of as much as 465 million francs if the product meets development, regulatory and commercial goals, Roche said in an e-mailed statement today. Roche also will pay royalties on sales, the Basel, Switzerland-based company said.

The treatment, known as POL7080, targets Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a bacterium that causes one in 10 hospital-acquired infections in the U.S., according to figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cited by Roche. Bacteria increasingly are growing resistant to antibiotics, leading to 25,000 deaths a year in the European Union alone, according to EU statistics.

“As the incidence of drug-resistant infections is creating an urgent demand for new therapeutic options, we look forward to adding this potentially important, targeted agent with a novel mechanism of action to our portfolio of innovative medicines,” said Janet Hammond, a Roche executive who oversees discovery of drugs for infectious diseases.

Polyphor, a closely held company, also is developing drugs for use in stem cell transplantation and lung diseases.

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