GlaxoSmithKline has entered into a deal with the US government to develop drugs to fight antibiotic resistance and bioterrorism.

In what has been described as "a first-of-its-kind collaboration", the drugs major will work with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, part of the US Department of Health and Human Services, to develop several antibiotics in GSK's portfolio. The partners say this unique approach "provides flexibility to move funding around GSK’s antibacterial portfolio, rather than focusing on just one drug candidate", allowing medicines to be studied for the potential treatment "of both conventional and biothreat pathogens".

Under the terms of the agreement, HHS will provide $40 million for the initial 18-month agreement and up to a total of $200 million if the alliance is renewed over five years. The work will be governed by a BARDA-GSK joint oversight committee that will "monitor progress, make decisions on the allocation of funds and decide on the addition or removal of drug candidates from the portfolio".

David Payne, head of GSK's antibacterial discovery performance unit, said "there is an urgent need to address antibiotic resistance and new models are needed to deal with this challenging area". He added that "we strongly believe that innovative public-private partnerships such as this are integral to solving this critical healthcare issue".

GSK, which notes that it is "one of the few large pharmaceutical companies still pursuing antibacterial research," has already had contracts with BARDA and other agencies for vaccines and antibiotics development. In March, GSK and the Texas A&M System received US government approval to establish an influenza vaccine facility in Texas.