University of Utah spin-off awarded grant to develop new antibiotics

Curza Global, LLC (Curza), a company based on technology developed at the University of Utah, has been awarded a Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant of $598,770 entitled "Natural product-inspired antibacterials with unique ribosomal binding" that will provide two years of support. Curza is a pharmaceutical startup company focused on small-molecule therapeutics. Curza's technology originates from the laboratories of Ryan Looper and Dustin Williams, both professors at the University of Utah.

Antibiotic-resistant superbugs represent a global health crisis, with Gram-negative infections recognized as one of the most serious threats. The grant will help support research and development toward a new class of broad spectrum antibiotics, with a primary focus on Gram-negative bacteria. With ever increasing reports of resistance to frontline therapies addressing Gram-negative pathogens there is a critical need for new antibiotic therapies. Despite this need, very few new therapies exist in the development pipeline of the pharmaceutical industry. Curza's efforts will therefore address a very important unmet medical need.

Curza's discovery and development efforts combine structure-based drug design, medicinal chemistry and biological characterization to contribute to advancing therapeutic candidates that are potent antimicrobials with high selectivity for bacterial ribosomes as compared to human and other mammalian targets. Curza CEO Ryan Davies said, "We are excited to receive this grant to help fund the development of our Gram-negative antibiotic program. Gram-negative antibiotic resistant infections pose a significant threat to global healthcare and Curza is committed to developing novel therapeutics to combat this problem."

This two-year Phase I SBIR project will demonstrate proof-of-concept for Curza's new class of antibiotics in models of infection. The grant funding will be used to optimize compounds through medicinal chemistry efforts in conjunction with structural biology, rigorous biological and biochemical characterization to ensure safety in humans.

Chad Testa, a research associate in the U's Department of Chemistry, will serve as Principal Investigator.


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