Effecting New Antibiotics, Part II: Microbial Genomics
This article was originally published in Start Up
The emerging science of microbial genomics is propelling an array of corporate efforts to develop novel antibiotics effective against drug-resistant organisms. Firms compiling genomic databases have been the first to profit, but competition is dropping the price of access.
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The introduction of new anti-infective drugs has not kept pace with the ability of bacteria to resist and render ineffective just about all antibiotics developed since the late 1920's. Influenza, hepatitis, pneumonia, meningitis, AIDS, tuberculosis and plenty of other infections are killing people, and not just in third world countries. In the US, infection is the third leading cause of death, behind heart disease and cancer. Since the mid-90's, the seriousness of the bacterial drug resistance problem has caused pharmaceutical companies to redouble their R&D efforts. And the problem has spawned a new industry of start-ups as well. Elitra Pharmaceuticals and Arrow Therapeutics hope to add to the anti-infective armamentarium with drugs that attack targets necessary for bacterial growth and survival. EluSys Therapeutics has an immunological approach, taking advantage of bispecific antibodies to clear toxins and pathogens from the bloodstream. Paratek Pharmaceuticals has taken a different approach. It's attacking the mechanism of resistance directly.
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