San Diego-based Forge Therapeutics struck an agreement with Roche centering on Forge’s antibiotic for treatment-resistant infections.

Under the deal, Swiss pharmaceutical Roche has an exclusive option to license Forge’s program that’ geared toward antibiotic-resistant bacteria like Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a cause of serious lung infections. If Roche exercises the option — and the drug receives approval — Forge is eligible for up to $190.5 million in payments.

Forge’s program is aimed at hospital infections, including ones on the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention’s most urgent threats list. These commonly occur in people with weakened immune systems and chronic lung diseases.

Deals in the antibiotic space aren’t exactly common these days. Drug giants have fled antibiotic development, scared by away by the prospects of steep costs and meager sales.

In 2018, Forge CEO Zak Zimmerman told the San Diego Business Journal that growing antibiotic resistance would put a premium on the company’s work. His view proved prescient.

"We look forward to combining our novel approach and innovative chemistry with Roche's proven drug development and commercialization expertise to provide a truly new class of antibiotic for people suffering from serious antibiotic-resistant infections,” he said in a news release.

Forge’s program inhibits LpxC, a sought-after antibiotic target that’s vexed other pharmaceuticals due to their chemistry limitations.

Forge said it’s different on account of its platform and what are called non-hydroxamate inhibitors, which in animal models have killed “superbugs” that are resistant to antibiotics.