Anifera makes development progress with bovine mastitis compound

Published Tuesday, 22nd March 2022

The firm’s compounds are modified from a naturally occurring molecule called ageliferin, which is produced and secreted by the marine sponge Agelas conifera and has anti-biofilm properties. The compounds are designed to increase the susceptibility of highly resistant strains of bacteria to antibiotics – potentially facilitating reduced use of antimicrobial drugs and the amount of time they are used for.

Anifera took its lead compound through in vivo and in vitro testing last year before conducting a small-scale study in cows with Moredun Scientific – a project supported by a grant from the UK’s Centre for Innovation Excellence in Livestock.

Gwynneth Thomas, Anifera’s chief executive, told S&P Global Animal Health the start-up has gained positive results indicating the possibility to use the compound as an adjunct therapeutic antibiotic for mastitis. However, she pointed out the early-stage study only featured a small subset of animals without an optimal formulation.

Anifera is now working with Argenta – a partner of Stonehaven Incubate – to optimize the formulation of the intra-mammary product. Dr Thomas claimed this work is scheduled to be completed “at the end of Q1 or early Q2”. The company will then take its lead candidate into more studies in cows.

Antonio Benitz – an Anifera board member – said the firm’s work has “probably become even more relevant in Europe because of the latest regulations that will limit the types and numbers of antibiotics used by veterinarians”. This new legislation means “the older classes of antibiotics become more important in terms of trying to maintain the activities at a high level”, according to Dr Benitz.

Anifera is targeting mastitis first as its compound has particularly strong activity against Staphylococcus aureus – one of the least responsive pathogens to existing antibiotic products. According to Dr Thomas, current products only have around 40-60% efficacy against S aureus, which is a causative agent of mastitis.

While mastitis control has been an area of increased research in recent years among both academia and industry, Dr Benitz said there has not been a lot of innovation or investment in treatment of the disease. Off-label use of antibiotics is still prominent in the treatment of mastitis, according to key opinion leaders that Anifera spoke to.

Dr Thomas noted many companies in the animal health industry are focused on mastitis prevention, while Anifera’s approach could be viewed as lifecycle management for existing products – a way of increasing the effectiveness of antibiotics.

The start-up plans to get its mastitis candidate further along the development pathway before seeking additional investment or a collaboration partner, and then turning its attention to other potential products. Speaking at the recent Animal Health, Nutrition & Technology Innovation Europe forum, Dr Thomas said the firm will “have a better idea of where we could head” with its lead candidate by the midway point of 2022.

Anifera will also explore extra avenues of product development in other species. It currently has five compounds assigned to its pipeline under a patent that belongs to its former parent company Agile Sciences. Dr Benitz said Anifera has had “really good support from regulators who are interested in our approach”. The firm has carried out informal meetings with several national regulatory teams in the EU.

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