BRIEF—Locus milestone unlocks more BARDA cash

25 January 2024

USA-based biotech Locus Biosciences is to receive $23.9 million from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response within the US Department of Health and Human Services.

The funding is to aid the development of Locus’ CRISPR-enhanced bacteriophage therapy, LBP-EC01, for treating urinary tract infections (UTIs) caused by drug-resistant Escherichia coli (E. coli).

Locus' recent successful completion of the uncontrolled open-label part one portion of the two-part ELIMINATE Phase II trial triggered the release of this tranche of funding under its $85 million contract with BARDA. The funds will be used to advance LBP-EC01 into the blinded, placebo-controlled, part two of the ELIMINATE Phase II trial.

Paul Garofolo, co-founder and chief executive of Locus, said: "Engineered bacteriophage have emerged as one of the most promising technologies for addressing the worldwide public health crisis of multi-drug resistant bacterial infections. While multiple small-scale studies have shown promise, the field urgently needs a definitive large-scale placebo-controlled study to conclusively test the efficacy of an engineered bacteriophage therapy.

"We are incredibly grateful for our partnership with BARDA in funding this clinical trial of a potential first-in-class precision medicine for an important unmet medical need."

In 2020, Locus and BARDA announced an agreement to co-fund development of LBP-EC01. Under the contract, BARDA will provide up to $85 million as part of a $152 million program to support Phase II and Phase III trials and other activities required to seek marketing approval from the US Food and Drug Administration for LBP-EC01.

The award announced brings the total released under the contract so far to $48.9 million.