Posted tagged ‘Antibiotics’

Breakthrough Opens Up New Avenues for Antibiotic Research and Development

November 8, 2013

In an article published in PLOS Genetics on October 31, 2013, Oregon State University researchers disclosed details of a discovery they made during studies of the DNA sequencing of the common cereal fungi fusarium graminearum. Conducted with support from the American Cancer Society and the National Institutes of Health, the research revealed that one gene in the pathogen acts as a switch or “master regulator” that silences more than 2,000 other genes. By deleting the gene, researchers have gained access to numerous gene expressions that could produce previously unknown compounds with applications in biofuel manufacturing, agriculture, and numerous other industries.

Because fungi have antibacterial properties, the discovery is of particular note to medical professionals, who have long been struggling with the advent of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Concurrent with the increasing concern over antibiotic resistance is an alarming dearth of new drugs to combat the problem. To encourage the research and development of new antibiotics, the United States government passed the GAIN (Generating Antibiotics Incentives Now) Act in 2011, which extends the exclusivity period of new drugs that meet the qualifications for an infectious disease product set by the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). Despite this, the development of new antibiotic compounds has continued to stagnate, with just two new antibiotics gaining FDA approval in the last five years. Because the return on investment for the development of new antibiotic drugs is so small, large pharmaceutical firms in particular are shying away from antibiotics research.

Fortunately, several biotech companies, such as GlaxoSmithKline, Cempra, and Evotec AG, have positioned themselves to meet the need created by antibiotic resistant bacteria by forming partnerships to accelerate drug development. With the announcement of the breakthrough by Oregon State University researchers, possible new research avenues might entice more companies to establish similar partnerships or create programs of their own.