Recce Pharmaceuticals (ASX:RCE) has been granted a US patent for a new synthetic antibiotic it’s developing, setting the stage for human trials this year.

The patent covers a suite of 23 claims for the RECCE 327 drug candidate, a treatment in the new class of synthetic antibiotics designed to treat antibiotic resistant superbugs, in this case blood infections and sepsis from E. coli and S. aureus bacteria.

Recce received an Australian patent last year, but is still waiting on one in Europe.

Director James Graham says they plan to start a phase 1 human clinical trial in the early second half of calendar 2019, under the US FDA’s antibiotic development program, and said they hadn’t yet decided whether to partner with another company to take it to market or do that themselves.

A terrifying reality

US researcher Pew Trusts says as of March 5 there were only 42 new antibiotic drugs in the global development pipeline.

Of these, 15 are in Phase 1 clinical trials, 11 are in Phase 2, 13 are in Phase 3, and three have had new drug applications submitted. Historically, about 60 per cent of drugs that enter Phase 3 will be approved.

Recce’s treatment is still in preclinical testing.

The number of new antibiotics being approved has been falling for some years, a fact that has experts from doctors to the WHO concerned as resistance to the treatment rises.

The Netherlands-based Access to Medicine Foundation found the number of new treatments approved for use in the US fell from 33 in 1985-1999 to just 13 in 2000-2014.

Can they cobble together the cash?

But whether Recce’s treatment makes it into the above development pipeline will depend, as with all biotech projects, on money.

The company had $35,284 left at the end of 2018, an amount bolstered this year by $150,000 in loans from chairman Dr Graham Melrose and director James Graham as well as $1.8m from an equity raising.

In 2018 Recce scraped together $1.05m in government R&D tax refunds and a loan from Dr Melrose, as well as a deal with Radium Capital for loans against future refunds.

Mr Graham said they need about $10m for phase 1 and phase 2 clinical trials, but because it’s an antibiotic it’s relatively simple to see whether it works or not, which brings down the overall cost.

Recce shares were up 10 per cent to 16.5c.