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Roche poised for deal to get back into antibiotics: paper

The logo of the Swiss drugmaker Roche is seen on a factory in Burgdorf near Bern, Switzerland in this November 17, 2010 file photo. REUTERS/
The logo of the Swiss drugmaker Roche is seen on a factory in Burgdorf near Bern, Switzerland in this November 17, 2010 file photo. REUTERS/

GENEVA (Reuters) - Swiss drugmaker Roche is poised to get back into antibiotics by taking over a candidate drug being developed by privately-owned Polyphor, the NZZ am Sonntag paper said on Sunday, without citing a source for the information.

The paper did not give any details of the transaction, but said the contract would be signed this weekend.

Roche's Chief Executive Severin Schwan said last month that the company was interested in "bolt-on acquisitions".

But a company spokesman declined to confirm the report on Sunday, saying the firm did not comment on rumors.

"We have an open and pragmatic approach to R&D and have mentioned in the past that antibiotics is an area where a lot of interesting science is going on," Roche spokesman Daniel Grotzky said in an emailed reply to a Reuters enquiry.

Polyphor, based in Allschwil in Switzerland, said in March it had successfully completed a phase 1 clinical trial for its POL7080 drug, a Pseudomonas specific antibiotic, which it said had shown outstanding efficacy against septicaemia, peritonitis and lung and thigh infection.

Polyphor says POL7080 is the frontrunner in a novel class of antibiotics that can tackle bacteria that have grown resistant to other drugs.

Drug-resistant "superbugs" are growing but not yet widespread and pharmaceutical companies have cut back research into antibiotics since they are unlikely to generate blockbuster profits.

Apart from Roche, others to have cut back include Pfizer, once the leader in the field, which closed its antibiotic R&D center in Connecticut in 2011, as well as Bristol-Myers Squibb and Eli Lilly, leaving only a handful of firms such as GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca and Merck & Co in the game.

(Reporting by Tom Miles; additional reporting by Caroline Copley in Zurich; editing by Tom Pfeiffer)

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