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Bactobio Insights: Our innovative fight combating the Superbug Crisis

24 November 2023

Bactobio's pioneering efforts in the fight against Antimicrobial Resistance: aligning with the 2023 World Antimicrobial Awareness Week

As the world marks the 2023 World Antimicrobial Awareness Week, the urgent call for global collaboration against Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) resonates more than ever. At Bactobio, we are deeply committed to this collective effort, recognising the need for innovative solutions to combat the growing impact of AMR.

The rising challenge of AMR

The discovery of penicillin heralded a golden age in healthcare, transforming fatal infections into treatable conditions and making high-risk surgeries routine. However, this era is under threat. Antimicrobials, including antibiotics like penicillin, are used to prevent and treat infections caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. The rise of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) – where these microorganisms evolve to withstand the drugs designed to kill them – is turning previously manageable diseases into incurable ones, undermining the effectiveness of these life-saving medications.

Currently, at least 70% of bacteria have developed resistance to one or more antibiotics, complicating the treatment of common infections. The emergence of ‘superbugs’ resistant to multiple or all available antibiotics poses an even greater challenge, rendering our existing antibiotic arsenal less effective. Contributing factors to AMR include the overuse/misuse of antimicrobials, inadequate sanitation, and poor infection prevention.

A 2022 study published in The Lancet illuminated the severity of this crisis: in 2019, AMR claimed over 1.27 million lives, nearly double the deaths caused by HIV/AIDS. Without significant action, resistant infections could cause an estimated 10 million deaths annually by 2050. This staggering figure positions AMR as one of the most challenging issues in global health, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) declaring AMR among the top 10 health threats facing humanity.

The state of antibiotic development

The current clinical pipeline for new antimicrobials is concerning, with only 46 antibiotics in development compared to 2,000 drugs in oncology. Of these 46, only 28 address the WHO's priority pathogens and just six are considered innovative. These developments are mostly derivatives of older drugs, where resistance is already an issue.

Developing new antibiotics is challenging. It is rigorous, time-consuming and involves a long regulatory process, often leading to failure. Additionally, the high cost of antibiotic development, often exceeding $1 billion per drug, is compounded by outdated sales volume-based reimbursement models. These models are less viable in the face of antibiotic stewardship practices, leading to low sales and profitability. Consequently, major pharmaceutical companies are withdrawing from antibiotic development, leaving the field increasingly reliant on universities and small biotech firms, which account for nearly 95% of new antibiotic research and development.

Bactobio’s mission: harnessing the untapped potential of microbes for a safer world

At Bactobio, we acknowledge the pressing need for new antibiotics in light of escalating resistance. We firmly believe that nature, with its complex chemistry, developed over billions of years, presents a far greater potential for discovering new antibiotics than traditional drug discovery approaches. Microbes in the environment produce compounds with antimicrobial properties to give them an advantage when competing for resources or to kill off competition.  80% of current antibiotics are derived from the 1% of soil bacteria successfully cultured under standard lab conditions. Unfortunately, this source has been significantly depleted, with no recent discoveries.

The remaining 99% grow in symbiotic communities and fail to thrive under conventional culture techniques. Our aim is to understand the composition and chemical/physical requirements for the survival of these microbial communities. Using our proprietary platform, which integrates next-generation sequencing, machine learning, and bioengineering, we aim to mimic these natural conditions, enabling the cultivation of novel microbial species. This approach allows us to screen for antimicrobials with significant potential, delving into the largely untapped resources of nature for antibiotic development.

Aligning with the global effort

Collaboration is this year's theme for World Antimicrobial Awareness Week and is a principle deeply ingrained in Bactobio’s values. We actively collaborate with industry peers, academic institutions, and global health organisations to drive forward our shared goal of developing novel and effective antimicrobials. Our dedication extends beyond research and development of new antimicrobials; we are committed to raising awareness about the AMR crisis. We understand that spreading knowledge and fostering understanding is pivotal in building a global coalition to combat AMR.

Invitation to join our mission

The battle against AMR is daunting, but with concerted efforts and innovative solutions like those pioneered here at Bactobio, we can confront this global health threat. As we participate in World Antimicrobial Awareness Week, we invite you to join us in this vital mission.

Your involvement can create real change. Explore our work and connect with us on our website to become an integral part of our mission. By supporting the global fight against AMR, you play a key role in safeguarding public health.

Together, let's tackle the rising tide of Antimicrobial Resistance.

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