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Christoph Dehio, Professor at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel

Christoph Dehio, Professor at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel


The Revival of Antibiotic Research

More than 100 people participated in the joint event by and the University of Basel “Aiming for novel antibiotic approaches: challenges, new technologies and and potential collaborations” about novel antibiotic approaches. Meanwhile, the Basel based SME Polyphor announced its IPO to receive fresh capital of around 150 Million Swiss Francs mainly for research in the field of novel antibiotics. Obviously, there is an exciting revival of interest Antibiotics research – but why?

The problem: “Anti-Microbial Resistance” (AMR) meaning that existing antibiotics don’t work anymore. Ken Bradley from F. Hoffmann-LaRoche explained the renewed interest of Roche by this urgent global health threat. It is expected that 10 Million people might die in 2050 due to AMR, compared to 1.5 Million in 2015. The cause: excessive use of antibiotics advancing AMR on one hand and a lack of research in new drugs on the other. This, in return, leads to a problem for the antibiotics business because the most effective antibiotics are used only rarely as a last resort.

Christoph Dehio, professor at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel and director of the National Research Program (NRP) 72 “Antibiotic Resistance” explained not only how the 20 Million funding of the NRP 72 is being used to understand spread of resistance, new drugs, techniques in diagnostics and optimized use. He also introduced the proposal for a National Center of Competence in Research (NCCR) focused on new approaches to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria. This NCCR would combine the powerhouses Biozentrum and the Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering (D-BSSE) of the ETH in Basel as well as many other national institutes to join competences in biology, engineering, clinics and industry in the best possible way. A few possibilities, like “Trojan horse antibiotics” using siderophores, were illustrated by Prof. Dirk Bumann, Biozentrum of the University of Basel.

“Antibiotics costs only 50 francs, but they save a life – they are too cheap!” Marc Gitzinger, CEO of the startup BioVersys explained why you should never ever start a company in antibiotics research – he did it anyway. Their rewarded “TRIC” technology aims for an intracellular pathway responsible for bacterial resistance at Transcriptional Regulator Inhibitory Compounds. Currently, BioVersys has compounds with excellent characteristics against a multi-resistant tuberculosis bacteria in their pipeline. As a fast-spreading tropical and neglected disease, tuberculosis is a threat for everyone without efficient antibiotics.

Petra Dittrich, professor at the D-BSSE explained the potential of microfluidic devices – for example 1’200 interconnected microchambers – to monitor drug efficacy and resistances on single cell levels. The vision: Fluids may be used in microfluidic devices as easy as electric currents in smart phones. This is not reality yet, but the advances in using single cells and analysing them in microchambers or many thousands of tiny droplets are already very impressive.

Finally, Ken Bradley, Head of Antibiotics Discovery at Roche, presented the WHO priority list of resistant and highly critical pathogens and some approaches made by Roche and collaboration partners. He introduced Nacubactam, a novel antibiotic with a new mode of action and Smarticles, a new diagnostics test for antibiotic resistance.

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