Lab Canada

New class of antibiotic to fight drug-resistant superbugs

A Halifax biomedical company lead by Dalhousie Medical School researchers has received $100,000 to further its work fighting drug-resistant bacterial infections commonly known as superbugs.

DeNovaMed has developed a new suite of antibiotics, and this money will help the company bring the drugs to market.

“Superbugs are resistant to almost every antibiotic. And in some cases, there are bacteria out there resistant to every antibiotic we currently have,” says Dr Chris McMaster, DeNovaMed’s CEO and a professor in the departments of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and Pediatrics. “That’s because we haven’t had a new class of antibiotic in over 30 years.”

Through mutations or other changes in their genetic material, bacteria can evade antibiotics and become drug-resistant.

In their Drug Discovery Lab located at the IWK Health Centre, DeNovaMed researchers used computer-aided drug design to develop new classes of compounds that work differently than all current antibiotics. The new antibiotics shut off bacterial membrane synthesis, whereas current antibiotics shut down other essential processes such as DNA, RNA, or protein synthesis.

New drugs are needed as more and more bacteria threaten the effectiveness of current antibiotics.

“At the present time, these bacteria kill – in North America and Europe – 50,000 people a year because we’ve got no way to treat them anymore,” says Dr McMaster. “Our plan is to enter a phase one clinical trial in early 2014.”

DeNovaMed was incorporated in 2006 by Drs McMaster, David Byers and Don Weaver. It placed first out of 142 applicants for the $100,000 Innovacorp i3 funding prize.

Reported by Allison Gerrard, Dalhousie Medical School