You’ve read the headlines. You’ve seen it in your feed. You’ve heard it on the news. Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem, and there is an urgent need to find and develop new drugs.
At Ingenza, we are doing something about it.
Who we are and what we do
Ingenza is a biotechnology company based in Edinburgh, Scotland, which specialises in synthetic biology for large-scale production of chemicals, biologics, pharmaceuticals and biofuels from sustainable sources. The nature of what we do is quite complicated, but we are big believers that science should be accessible to non-scientists. So here goes…
What’s the problem?
Antibiotics are chemical compounds that kill bacteria and therefore help you get better when you have a bacterial infection. Unfortunately, many of the pesky little critters have evolved to become resistant, and everyday antibiotics no longer work as well, if at all. The hunt is on to find the next class of antibiotics that can destroy harmful bacteria.
There’s still hope
One group of naturally occurring compounds called bacteriocins shows a lot of promise. These chemicals are actually produced by bacteria to inhibit the growth of closely-related strains. We’ve been working with researchers at the University of Plymouth who have discovered an exciting new bacteriocin antibiotic called epidermicin.
What is epidermicin?
Amino acids are the building blocks of the protein in your body. Epidermicin is made up of 51 amino acids linked together and is produced by one particular species of bacteria. Early experiments have revealed that the antibiotic rapidly kills MRSA, the ‘superbug’ that is having a worrying impact in hospitals and has even contributed to some patient mortality.
It represents a new tool in the arsenal of antibiotic medicines, offering significant advantages compared to existing options, as it is more powerful, non-toxic and bacteria do not appear to easily develop resistance to it.
Developing a new drug costs a lot of money
There is, however, the small problem of money. Epidermicin is produced in very low amounts by the bacteria, and making the compound from scratch is very expensive, so, in 2015, we applied for funding from the Innovate UK Industry Biotechnology Catalyst scheme.
The grant is helping us to reach our goal of turning epidermicin into a commercially viable product. We can do this by genetically modifying the bacteria in many different ways using our cutting-edge inABLE® technology. This will lead to changes in the structure of the antibiotic and we can test to see which of the variations are the most effective. Normally this could take up to 10 years using conventional methods, but we hope to achieve this within a two-year timeframe.
Our goal is to develop an efficient, scalable system that produces tens to hundreds of milligrams of epidermicin from a litre of bacteria. It’s a little like a dairy farm, except in this case we have bacteria instead of cows and an antibiotic instead of milk. By generating a number of new antibiotics from a single source, we can potentially provide a supply of future drugs to combat the growing problem of antimicrobial resistance.
That seems like money well spent.
If this sounds interesting, you can follow us on Twitter or visit our website to keep up-to-date with the latest, exciting discoveries.
© 2017 kdm communications limited
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