“One of the most pressing public health issues facing the world today,” – President Obama
On March 27th, the White House announced a five-year plan to fight the threat posed by antibiotic-resistant bacteria amid fears that once-treatable germs could become increasingly deadly. Repeated exposure to antibiotics can lead germs to develop resistance to the drugs, making these life-saving treatments no longer effective.
It’s exciting to hear about the President’s plan, as well as about amazing new discoveries that can eliminate major growing threats to global public health. Often such discoveries surface after decades of labor-intensive research, not knowing what to look for, digesting an infinite number of pathways to possibilities, identifying significant relationships, etc. The road to reaching a goal in BioPharma is far from an “overnight success” that can happen in other industries.
A fascinating story titled “A Potential Foe for the Superbug” in Wall Street Journal, narrates the events and timeline involved in discovering the power of the compound “aspergillomarasmine A” or AMA. This compound was extracted from a common fungus found in soil and mold in a national park in Eastern Canada. It has been found effective in fighting antibiotic resistance, a major threat to global public health according to the World Health Organization. Common germs, such as Escherichia coli, or E. coli, are becoming difficult to treat because they increasingly don’t respond to antibiotics. Some two million people in the U.S. are infected each year by antibiotic-resistant bacteria and 23,000 die as a result, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Scientists at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, discovered how to “disarm” the “public enemy #1”: NDM-1 enzyme, with the fungal natural product, aspergillomarasmine A. It should be noted that AMA was first identified already in the 60’s in connection with leaf wilt in plants. It was later investigated as a potential drug for treating high blood pressure.
We are now fortunate to find out, even though decades later, that AMA combined with a carbapenem antibiotic (and potentially other antibiotics), inactivates the NDM-1 enzyme in three drug-resistant superbugs that can cause pneumonia and blood infections.
This is good news, but it took decades to identify the compound, then another five years to zero in on the key target, before we can even begin determining the safety and effective dosage of AMA. The great news is that with Code-N’s next-generation digital technologies, advanced bioinformatics capabilities, and access to industry-wide Big Data repositories, we can condense the process, view all relevant possibilities up-front, and chart the road towards significant discoveries proactively. Going forward the need for extracting advance intelligence from Big Data through bioinformatics technology that can suggest relevant pathways to solving anticipated threats, is progressively more critical. As we know, bacteria, superbugs, and environmental organisms will continue to change and present neverending challenges.
Code-N’s mission is to empower BioPharma companies with such intelligence.
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