The healthcare world has been buzzing with the news of the discovery of a new, largely resistance-free antibiotic called teixobactin. Healthcare Dive caught up with the lead researcher on the paper, Dr. Kim Lewis, to discuss the implications for hospitals and ask, just how big of a deal is this?
Here is what he had to say:
What is the timeline for introducing teixobactin for use in hospitals?
I think we're probably two years away from Phase I clinical trials and five years away from having the drug in the clinic.
What kinds of infections do you anticipate that this antibiotic will be effective against?
This is effective against a wide range, essentially all gram-positive infections: Staph Aureus, MERS, Strep Pneumo, Enterococci. It's very effective against Enterococci.
From a big-picture perspective, is this the solution to the antibiotic crisis?
This particular compound is a potential solution for part of the problem. It's not active against gram-negative pathogens, at least not yet. We have a program to broaden the spectrum, but that takes time and it's not assured that we are going to be successful.
Another important implication from our work is that we have not only a [single] compound (teixobactin), but also a discovery platform, something we haven't had in a very long time. A platform allows you to discover new compounds.
The reason we haven't been discovering antibiotics for a very long time is because our original platform, soil microorganisms, has been exhausted. Most of the antibiotics we have came from soil microorganisms, but only 1% of them will grow in the lab, and that's the resource that was over-mined. We are going after the remaining 99% which are uncultured, and we developed a method to grow them. That is what provides us with a discovery platform.
The antibiotics are there, but they were hidden within the uncultured bacteria that were not accessible to us.
The important point is that this is the first compound that is largely free of resistance development, so the excitement is that there will be other compounds like this one.
What are the next steps for this research?
So far, we can cure mice [with teixobactin], which is good [because] they are not a bad predictor for humans. We've cured them of several infections: blood, thigh and lung infections. Now we need to do efficacy studies for rats and dogs, extend the toxicity studies, scale up production, [develop] good manufacturing practices, production for human clinical studies. There's quite a bit of work to do.
We're screening for other compounds every day. It's an ongoing process and there's a bit of luck involved, but I hope this study will allow us to get more resources and expand the screening effort. This is a big planet with millions of species of bacteria. This was a very modest effort and we just scratched the surface of this potential resource. It was highly unlikely that we pulled out a lottery ticket with teixobactin. We discovered 25 compounds, one of them was teixobactin. The next 25 compounds will have other additional attractive molecules.
Is teixobactin proprietary?
We are doing this in collaboration with Novobiotic Pharmaceuticals and they own patent rights for the compound.
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And here's what we were reading:
- Bob Herman at Modern Healthcare looks at the M&A market in 2015 for insurers.
- Harvard faculty threw the toys out of the pram over changes to their health coverage. The New York Times reports.
- The Arkansas Private Option remains up in the air, according to Arkansas Online.
- Christopher Flavelle asks in Bloomberg: Medicaid pay for primary-care docs is falling. Is the problem that the program was already too cheap?