Swiss giant Novartis has snapped up the rights to market a potentially first-in-class antibiotic from Paratek Pharmaceuticals for an undisclosed sum, bolstering the company's armamentarium in this field following its acquisition of Protez Pharmaceuticals in June last year.

PTK 0796 is an aminomethylcycline that has shown broad activity against a wide range of bacteria, including both Gram-positive and -negative, atypical and anaerobic strains. Indeed, says Novartis, it has potential to be the first broad spectrum antibiotic given by once-daily infusion or oral tablet to treat infections caused by drug resistant bacteria such as MRSA.

To bring this into context, there are around 150,000 deaths every year across the USA and European Union from hospital-acquired infections. Joe Jimenez, chief executive of Novartis Pharmaceuticals, says: "It will potentially benefit patents by offering a flexible and highly effective approach to the treatment of a number of critical infections." Because it can be given as a 30-minute infusion or daily oral tablet, it could offer patients a convenient way of continuing treatment after they have been discharged from hospital. In addition, its broad spectrum of activity means that it can be used as a single agent unlike other antibiotics that may need to be used in combination.

Novartis will make an upfront payment to Paratek and the two companies will share responsibility for the compound's development. It is currently in a Phase III trial to evaluate its use in complicated skin and skin structure infections.

In Phase II, Novartis has PTZ601 (razupenem) from the Protez acquisition; the first injectable broad spectrum antibiotic in the carbapenem class to cover MRSA.