£500,000 grant could lead to a new class of antibiotics to combat superbugs

A new antibiotic, hailed as the “last line of defence” in the battle against drug-resistant superbugs such as MSRA and VRE, is taking the next step in development ... thanks to a UK Government grant of almost £500,000

During the next year, scientists will develop a catalogue of simplified synthetic versions of a naturally occurring antibiotic called teixobactin – dubbed a “game changer” when it was discovered in 2015 owing to its ability to kill drug-resistant pathogens – by replacing key amino acids at specific points in the antibiotic’s structure to make it easier to recreate.

The creation of an arsenal of new synthetic teixobactin molecules is a vital step in drug development, owing to a high failure rate when scientists only have a limited number of molecules to work with, and will form one of the key stages of the new research project.

The team of chemists, biologists and clinicians that will use teixobactin as a building block is led by Dr Ishwar Singh at the University of Lincoln, UK, in collaboration with the University of Liverpool.

The £484,000 grant from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) will involve a ‘proof of concept’ trial in test subjects, which if successful, could potentially be used in hospitals as an investigational new medicine and be turned into a drug fit for human use.

Dr Singh, an expert in biological chemistry and specialist in novel drug design and development at the University of Lincoln’s School of Pharmacy, said: “We know that the therapeutic potential of simplified synthetic teixobactin is immense, and our ultimate goal is to have a number of viable drugs from our synthetic teixobactin platform which can be used as a last line of defence against superbugs in hospitals."

“So far, we have demonstrated that we can make synthetic versions, which are as potent at treating drug-resistant pathogens as the real thing, but we now need to expand our catalogue of synthetic teixobactin as a precursor to production on a commercial scale."

"In drug development, there is a very high failure rate and pinning all hopes on one molecule could be risky. The catalogue of molecules we will develop can be put through trials with the ultimate goal of taking a drug fit for human use to the clinic.”

Once developed, the teixobactin antibiotic will be the first new class of antibiotic drug in 30 years.

It has been predicted that by 2050 an additional 10 million people will succumb to drug resistant infections each year. The development of new antibiotics which can be used as a last resort when other drugs are ineffective is therefore a crucial area of study for healthcare researchers around the world.

The next step in the research will be the production of a so-called ‘investigational drug or medicine’ – a drug that is developed for safe testing in humans followed by clinical trials and new drug approval by regulatory bodies.

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