During a forum held at the White House last June, Eli Lilly’s ($LLY) Elanco animal health unit outlined an 8-step plan to combat antibiotics resistance, which included a commitment to invest two-thirds of its research budget exploring alternatives to using the drugs in food animals. Now Elanco has struck up a research pact that could bring it closer to reaching that goal.
The company announced that it is collaborating with EnBiotix, a Cambridge, MA-based developer of engineered “phage” technology for use in animal health. The technology revolves around bacteriophages, which are naturally occurring viruses that infect bacteria but don’t otherwise cause illness. The phages replicate inside bacterial cells, ultimately killing them.
Under the terms of the collaboration, Elanco and EnBiotix will work together to identify drug candidates for use in animals, according to a press release announcing the deal. Elanco will provide research funding in return for the rights to commercialize any products that come out of the partnership.
“Innovative research will be key to protecting both human and animal health while safeguarding antibiotics for future generations,” said Elanco President Jeff Simmons in the release.
At the White House last year, Simmons vowed during a panel discussion that Elanco would eliminate over-the-counter sales of “shared-class” antibiotics that are used in both animal and human health. The company also said it was examining 25 nonantibiotic drug candidates, though Simmons stopped short of supporting any policies that would eliminate the use of antibiotics in animal production. Simmons said at the time the company would take a “pragmatic approach that doesn’t put animals at risk.”
The animal health industry has been under pressure from the White House to reduce its reliance on antibiotics in food production. Regulators are concerned about the widespread use of drugs that are important for fighting infections in people, and many believe that giving food animals antibiotics–particularly for non-medical purposes such as growth promotion–may have led to the rise of “superbugs” that are resistant to the drugs. Elanco was one of 150 companies that presented formal plans for combating antibiotics resistance at the White House forum last summer.
EnBiotix was founded based on research by Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineering professor James Collins. The company is working on a variety of technologies designed to improve the activity of antibiotics and to lower the risk of patients becoming resistant to them.
“We have been impressed by Elanco’s comprehensive antibiotic stewardship plan and they represent an ideal partner for EnBiotix in this field,” said Jeffrey Wagner, CEO of EnBiotix in the release.
– here’s the press release