ASX biotechs Recce Pharmaceuticals (ASX:RCE) and Botanix Pharmaceuticals (ASX:BOT) have this morning both given updates on their antimicrobial drug candidates as interest heats up on weapons to combat so-called “superbugs”.

Recce said its synthetic antibiotic, Recce 327, has demonstrated activity against the full suite of six pathogens acronymically dubbed “ESKAPE” because they have a propensity to escape the biocidal action of antibiotics.

The ESKAPE pathogens are responsible for about 50 million infections each year, resulting in 11 million deaths in 2017, according to one estimate.

R327 was also found effective against multi-drug resistant gonorrhoea and carbapenem-resistant E. coli, two mutant pathogens deemed a priority by the World Health Organisation.

“We are encouraged by the data from this study and will continue to explore the potential of RECCE 327 to treat hospital-acquired infections,” Recce chief executive James Graham said.


Botanix meanwhile said it would expand its clinical development program for its antimicrobial drug candidate, BTX-1801.

The company will research using the cannabis-derived drug candidate to prevent bloodstream infections in dialysis patients with central venous catheters, who are at considerable risk for infections when bacteria enter the bloodstream. An estimated 20 to 40 per cent of dialysis patients eventually die from infection, Botanix said.

The current treatment to prevent such infections is essentially limited to the application of antiseptics at the catheter site, it said.

Staph bacteria is frequently found in the nasal passages, so Botanix said it would research using BTX-1801 to eradicate staph bacteria in the noses of patients undergoing dialysis.

The company is planning a Phase 2b study to begin late this year to assess how well BTX 1801 works in killing staph bacteria over a three-month period.

Shares in Botanix were up 3.7 per cent to 8.5c this morning, while Reece shares were up 6.2 per cent to a one-and-a-half week high of $1.20.