Roche has signed a deal with fellow Swiss group Polyphor to license the latter's investigational superbug antibiotic.

The treatment in question, codenamed POL7080, is for patients suffering from bacterial infections caused by Pseudomonas aeruginosa. It belongs to a new class of antibiotics and has demonstrated safety and tolerability in a Phase I trial.

Roche says the antibiotic "holds promise for the treatment of serious and often life-threatening bacterial infections" caused by multi-drug-resistant Pseudomonas species. P aeruginosa accounts for one in every 10 hospital-acquired infections in the USA and over 15% of its isolates were resistant to at least three classes of antibiotics; close to 5% were resistant to all five classes under surveillance.

Cashwise, Roche is making an upfront fee of 35 million Swiss francs to Polyphor, which is also eligible to receive development, regulatory and commercial milestones up to 465 million francs, plus tiered double-digit royalties. The privately-owned Allschwil-based firm will retain the option to co-promote an inhaled formulation of POL7080 in Europe.

The deal represents a return to antibiotic research for Roche and Janet Hammond, head of infectious diseases discovery noted that "as the incidence of drug-resistant infections is creating an urgent demand for new therapeutic options, we look forward to adding this potentially important, targeted agent with a novel mechanism of action to our portfolio".