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Spero Therapeutics (SPRO), headquartered in Cambridge’s Central Square neighborhood, announced this week that two government agencies would give the company up to $54.2 million to continue developing a new antibiotic for complicated urinary tract infections. The news came just days after Novartis revealed it would shut down its antibiotics unit and and license out its drug candidates — including one for a complicated urinary tract infection.  

Paratek (PRTK), which has offices in Boston and Philadelphia, is working on new antibiotics that are similar to tetracycline. An antibody-drug conjugate against Pseudomonas from Visterra, a company in Waltham, Mass., that Otsuka bought for $430 million, is in the preclinical stage. Entasis Therapeutics, which also has its headquarters in Waltham, is working on antibiotics for several different infections, including gonorrhea.


These four companies are bucking a trend set by bigger players backing away from antibiotic development. Some bacteria have wised up to our old antibiotics’ tricks, but finding truly new ways to outsmart bacteria has been difficult for the last 40 years. And in a market not known for blockbusters, the financial challenges are just as daunting.

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