Biota Holdings has hit the acquisition trail and is buying two antibacterial specialists to expand its pipeline.

First up, Biota is buying Prolysis, a UK-based antibacterial drug discovery company. Located in Oxford, the privately-held firm has two lead projects focused on new antibiotics for multiple drug resistant infections, which Biota says “have the potential to manage the current wave of hospital superbugs”.

Under the terms of the agreement, Biota will pay Prolysis A$10.8 million (around £6.4) in shares, of which 60% will be subject to a 12-month escrow period, plus up to a 15% share in all milestone and royalties on any products that emerge. Biota added that it expects to invest A$25 million over the next three years developing Prolysis’ programmes.

The Melbourne-headquartered firm has also acquired the assets and drug development programmes of MaxThera of the USA.

The Boston-based company has developed “a high quality suite of validated novel bacterial targets and early stage antibacterial programmes”, Biota says, aimed at developing compounds to treat serious infections, including those that are resistant to existing products. The lead programme targets inhibitors of an essential bacterial enzyme in the Coenzyme-A biosynthetic pathway.

Biota is paying MaxThera $1.2m in cash for the assets and $300,000 in Biota shares, to be released to the US firm’s shareholders in two equal tranches at six and twelve months. MaxThera stockholders are also entitled to receive 12% of all upfront and milestone payments received by Biota if the two main programmes are licensed. Biota will invest up to $15 million into these projects, assuming development milestones are achieved, over the next three to five years.

Chief executive Peter Cook said that the acquisitions “confirms Biota’s strategy to increase its portfolio of drugs in development and to expand beyond antivirals into other anti-infectives”. The company is best-known for discovering the influenza treatment Relenza (zanamivir), marketed by GlaxoSmithKline and received $24.1 million royalties from the latter in the third quarter.