Wellcome support for bacteria fight

Abingdon-based drugs firm, Summit Corporation, has received £2.2m of funding from the Wellcome Trust towards its programme to fight the Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) bacteria in healthcare environments.

C. difficile is estimated to affect around 50,000 people per year in the UK with mortality rates thought to be four times higher than MRSA. According to Summit, hyper-virulent strains are now endemic in Europe and the US and are associated with more severe disease and higher mortality rates.

Summit’s programme has identified a class of small molecule compounds that could work as a potential new therapy for the treatment of C. difficile. Early stage studies have shown the compounds slow the growth of C. difficile and are selective for this bacterium. In addition, the compounds have shown activity against hyper-virulent strains.

Steven Lee, chief executive of Summit, said: ‘This £2.2m award from the Wellcome Trust endorses Summit’s scientific expertise in the area of infectious diseases. Our C. difficile programme targets a significant and growing healthcare threat and the two years of funding will act as a potential value driver for the business as the programme is developed into a valuable commercial opportunity.’

The £2.2m award has been made through the Wellcome Trust’s Seeding Drug Discovery Initiative and will provide more than two years of funding to develop Summit’s programme until the end of its preclinical development.

The funding will allow Summit’s C. difficile programme to become part of its expanded Partnered Product Portfolio, which is now made up of eight drug programmes. However, Summit will keep territory rights in some of its C. difficile programme to ensure that the company can benefit from any future commercial agreements.