Prime Minister David Cameron has applauded a new deal between a spin out firm from St George’s, University of London and an Indian pharmaceutical firm to develop ways to combat resistance to antibiotics.

Helperby Therapeutics, a spin-out company of the UK’s St George’s, University of London has teamed up with Indian firm Cadila to develop ways to tackle the problem of widespread resistance to antibiotics which the World Health Organisation’s director Margaret Chan fears could mean an end to modern medicine as we know it.

Prime Minister Cameron, on a trade mission to India, praised the new deal called the Joint Antibiotic Drug Resistance Research and Development Agreement.

He said: “The life sciences industry is the jewel in the crown for the UK economy, consistently growing and achieving new breakthroughs.

“Today’s deal between Helperby and Cadila Pharmaceuticals on antibiotic resistance research is another great example of UK-India collaboration helping both our countries to succeed in the global race.

“And it’s not just a step forward for medical research it also has the potential to create up to 1,000 highly skilled jobs in the UK by 2019.”

Helperby Therapeutics has been working for the past 12 years on ways to tackle antibiotic resistance and has discovered a new series of potent, fast-acting drugs which rescue old antibiotics.

Instead of targeting multiplying bacteria, the research team focused on non-multiplying, dormant bacteria. Developing antibiotics that target these specific bacteria has never been done before. Conventional methods of screening have consistently missed these promising potential drugs.

Helperby Therapeutics has made a major breakthrough in the fight against resistance with the discovery of patented ‘resistance breaker’ compounds - in what has been described as the most important innovation in the discovery of new antibiotics since Alexander Fleming’s original breakthrough more than 80 years ago.

The lead compound, HT61, has proven effective at ‘Phase II’ clinical trials where it was shown to boost the effect of the old antibiotic.

HT61 also renders a number of old antibiotics active against highly resistant bacteria so it has been called an Antibiotic Resistance Breaker.

Travelling with the UK’s Trade Delegation to India led by Prime Minister Cameron, Helperby Therapeutics signed its first major licensing deal with Cadila Pharmaceuticals to take this compound through further clinical trials, approvals and into commercialisation.

Helperby Therapeutics will supply Cadila with Antibiotic Resistance Breakers whilst Cadila will develop the combinations with old antibiotics.

Helperby Therapeutics’s creator and chief scientific officer Anthony Coates, who is also Professor of Medical Microbiology at St George’s, said: “This exciting and timely partnership with Cadila offers us all hope.

“A future without antibiotics is unthinkable but it could happen - imagine a time when a cut finger could leave you fighting for your life. The emergence and spread of drug-resistant pathogens has accelerated whilst the pipeline for new anti-microbial drugs has all but run dry.

“Traditionally a new antibiotic would take between 10-18 years to bring to market at a cost of at least $50million. In that time many lives could have been lost, as well as the emergence of further resistant strains. This exciting new development will allow the rejuvenation of existing antibiotics, many of which have been rendered ineffective against emerging, resistant strains.

"I want to acknowledge the key role of Dr Yanmin Hu, a senior fellow at St George's and her team in this work. ”

Cadila Pharmaceuticals is one of the largest privately held pharmaceutical companies in India and was the first Indian company to receive Investigational New Drug approval by the stringent Food and Drug Administration USA. It is now actively considering a presence in the UK with a corresponding programme for UK microbiologists as part of the collaboration.

Dr Rajiv I Modi, Cadila’s chairman and managing director, said: “The Founder Chairman of our company, Shri IA Modi, believed in providing affordable medicines for the masses through innovative and cutting-edge research & development.

“This discovery will open new avenues against resistant organisms and is very timely in view of global concerns about rapidly growing bacterial resistance against current antibiotics. Cadila Pharmaceutical’s collaboration with Helperby can help mankind win the battle against the microbes and hopefully save millions of lives in coming years.”

The licensing agreement will allow Cadila Pharmaceuticals to develop Helperby’s lead compound plus one other, with the aim of bringing the first product to market in around 18 months.

Helperby has a further seven compounds at early stages of their development and is seeking further collaborative pharmaceutical partners to bring these resistance breakers to market.