Investigators at GlaxoSmithKline are excited about the prospect of a new antibiotic that uses a different approach to kill drug-resistant bacteria now rampaging through hospitals. Imaging technology has captured proof that the antibiotic latches on to the enzyme topoisomerase, which bacteria need to replicate.
A generation of quinolones has effectively targeted that enzyme. But they're losing effectiveness and GSK, teamed with the Wellcome Trust's Seeding Drug Discovery initiative and the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency, has found a new approach to hitting the drug target with GSK-299423.
"We already knew that targeting this enzyme was clinically proven to stop bacteria in their tracks, we just needed to be a bit more inventive in how we attacked it," said GSK researcher Michael Gwynn. "This is an important step forward in the race against antibiotic resistance," added Ted Bianco, director of technology transfer at the Wellcome Trust. "By solving the new structure of this important bacterial enzyme, and understanding how these drugs work, the team has opened the door for targeted drug design of new antibiotics, which are urgently needed."
Bloomberg plays this story against a backdrop of declining R&D work in the antibiotic field. "We saw the exodus of Big Pharma and now we're seeing biotech get out because their investors feel the risk is too high," says Helen Boucher at Tufts Medical Center in Boston. Hospital-acquired infections, meanwhile, pose a major risk to patients as currently used antibiotics gradually weaken.