UK drug giant GlaxoSmithKline has signed up for access to US group Anacor Pharmaceutical’s anti-infectives know-how in a multi-million-dollar deal.

The worldwide strategic alliance for the discovery, development and commercialisation of novel anti-infectives gives GSK a pass to Anacor’s novel boron-based chemistry for use against up to four selected targets, with the potential for at least eight product options, the groups said.

Anacor will see through the discovery and development of boron-containing drug candidates through clinical proof of concept, at which point GSK can opt to license each compound for further development at its Infectious Diseases Centre of Excellence for Drug Discovery, and ultimately put them on the market.

In return, the US group stands to receive a tidy sum to bolster its coffers. In the first instance, Anacor due an upfront fee of $12 million as well as $10 million in equity financing. Then, if it goes on to hit certain targets, it will receive discovery, development, regulatory and commercial milestones to the tune of $252 million and $331 million for each product candidate. Furthermore, if GSK selects any candidates for further development, Anacor will be due tiered double-digit sales-based royalties.

Boron in drug development

Boron has two attributes that Anacor believes provide compounds containing the element with drug-like properties: a unique geometry, giving boron-based drugs the ability to interact with biological targets in ways not addressed by traditional, carbon-based compounds; and its reactivity allows boron-based compounds to interact with a biological target to create a change that is specific to a particular disease.

The lack of naturally-occurring boron has left it “relatively under utilised” in the development of medicines, but Anacor’s ability to synthesise boron-based compounds has enabled the firm to rapidly create diverse families of boron-based compounds.

Explaining GSK’s interest in the area, Zhi Hong, Senior Vice President and Head of GlaxoSmithKline’s ID CEDD, said: “We recognise the issues created by resistance to available medicines and are determined to take advantage of novel approaches that offer new prospects for treatments across a range of infectious diseases. Anacor’s boron-based chemistry has shown promise in inhibiting targets that are difficult to address with traditional carbon-based molecules and we look forward to further exploring its potential to provide new antiviral and antibiotic options.”