Antibacterial resistance is a great concern and requires global action. A critical question is whether enough new antibacterial drugs are being discovered and developed. A review of the clinical antibacterial drug pipeline was recently published, but comprehensive information about the global preclinical pipeline is unavailable. This Review focuses on discovery and preclinical development projects and has found, as of 1 May 2019, 407 antibacterial projects from 314 institutions. The focus is on Gram-negative pathogens, particularly bacteria on the WHO priority bacteria list. The preclinical pipeline is characterized by high levels of diversity and interesting scientific concepts, with 135 projects on direct-acting small molecules that represent new classes, new targets or new mechanisms of action. There is also a strong trend towards non-traditional approaches, including diverse antivirulence approaches, microbiome-modifying strategies, and engineered phages and probiotics. The high number of pathogen-specific and adjunctive approaches is unprecedented in antibiotic history. Translational hurdles are not adequately addressed yet, especially development pathways to show clinical impact of non-traditional approaches. The innovative potential of the preclinical pipeline compared with the clinical pipeline is encouraging but fragile. Much more work, focus and funding are needed for the novel approaches to result in effective antibacterial therapies to sustainably combat antibacterial resistance.
Cite this article
Theuretzbacher, U., Outterson, K., Engel, A. et al. The global preclinical antibacterial pipeline. Nat Rev Microbiol (2019) doi:10.1038/s41579-019-0288-0