A team of scientists at IBM and a Singapore research lab have designed a nanoparticle that homes in on antibiotic-resistant bacteria and launches a lethal assault, making resistance futile. And Big Blue's involvement has helped generate a tidal wave of interest around the globe for the project, which is still very much in the discovery phase.
The investigators' new strategy, which might eventually go on to become a potent approach in the war against MRSA, relies on a nanoparticle equipped with an electrical charge which is opposite to the charge on the membrane of bacteria. The nanoparticle zeroes in on the bacteria, links up and punches holes in its defense network. But the researchers are quick to note that the program, while intriguing, still faces animal studies ahead of any human clinical trials. And IBM wants to partner up with a developer who can take this therapeutic to market.
"We do a lot of exploratory research," Bob Allen, who runs the chemistry department at IBM Research-Almaden, tells the Wall Street Journal. "We're trying to leverage our expertise in physical chemistry...to develop new concepts and get into new markets through partnerships."
Faced with lean margins and big risks, pharma has largely pulled out of the whole antibiotic research field over the years. But given IBM's magnetic reputation and flair for new technology--as well as the high unmet need represented by MRSA--this program may no go unpartnered for long.